Proof that construction industry encourages women

WFBA’s career mum and Senior Structural Engineer Sophie Hayes
WFBA’s career mum and Senior Structural Engineer Sophie Hayes

Sophie Hayes from Southampton has over 14 years’ experience as a Structural Engineer.  Since attending Portsmouth University to gain her BEng degree in Civil engineering and gaining her Chartered membership of the Institution of Structural Engineers, mother of two Sophie says that she has seen the construction industry become more confident in the abilities of female professionals.

“I recently attended a meeting that reinforced this, the Health and Safety Co-ordinator, the Architect and the Design Manager, 3 women from 3 different companies.  That was a first for me but I’m confident if the industry continues to encourage girls to consider a career in the different facets of construction, it will only take a few years before that becomes more common place.”

Sophie admits that she has been fortunate in the fact that the first consulting civil and structural engineering company, Romsey based WFBA, gave her that important first job in 2004 (before her degree results) and even though Sophie left their employment for 7 years, she was welcomed back in 2013 just prior to her Chartered membership exam and then her marriage to Robin in 2014, a mechanical services engineer. She is now Chartered and a Senior Structural Engineer.

WFBA’s Directors Bill Brown and Nick Groves admit that they welcomed the return of Sophie in the knowledge that she was very likely to become a mother within a few years.

“We knew that Sophie had the knowledge and experience to do the job as well as any of her male colleagues and as parents ourselves, we knew the issues faced by our wives when our children were young.  It’s only a temporary phase in a career so why would we not support Sophie?” said Nick Groves.

Sophie admits that she has been fortunate to have employers who offer her a short working week that permits the constant juggling act between career and motherhood of 3 year old Dylan and 1 year old Keira. The fact that her own mother and mother-in-law are reasonably close to help, also allows the juggling act to succeed.

“It’s worth it,” says Sophie. “I’m confident that I’m on an equal wage with my male colleagues and so it’s very satisfying to know that my early interest in maths and physics has resulted in working in an industry that I can enjoy. I’m very keen to contribute to WFBA over the long term as it continues to expand and gain a variety of interesting construction projects.”

Nick Groves believes that it would be incredibly stupid to allow a brilliant team member of any gender to feel the need to give up a profession that they have aspired to become.  “Everyone is an individual with different demands and needs to make their career a success.  It makes us stronger as a business to recognise that and to embrace it.”

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