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Insights International Women’s Day - An interview with Catherine Tait

To celebrate International Women’s Day, AtkinsRéalis wants to challenge stereotypes that limit women and girls. We caught up with Catherine Tait, assistant safety engineer in our Energy business. Always confident to voice her views and ideas at school she was labelled ‘bossy’ and a ‘challenge’. Read how today she chooses to reject gender-biased attitudes and instead believe in herself and her potential.

What does the International Women’s Day slogan, #PressForProgress mean for you in your work life?

It’s about what I can do to make a difference for gender equality. It means being bold, having difficult conversations around gender stereotyping, and sharing my experience to support and encourage others.

Why did you choose to become an engineer?

Engineering excited me because it allowed me to pursue my love of science and satisfy my desire to learn, question and solve things.

In your opinion, why is it important that more women take up engineering in the near future?

Studies show diverse teams are more productive. In today’s volatile markets, which include engineering industries, diversity in the workplace is a key step to successful business. I believe an important part of this is to celebrate the difference men and women can bring to solve tomorrow’s problems.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in engineering?

Don’t let anyone tell you engineering is a ‘man’s job’. It’s not a role defined by gender. If you have a passion for it, you can do it!

Do you think there’s a stereotype attached to female engineers?

Stereotypical thinking is so ingrained, most of it is unconscious. Women are expected to be ‘measured’, ‘soft’ and ‘warm’. Should our behaviours stray from this, we may be considered ‘cold’ or ‘unreasonable’. To change stereotypes, we must continue to challenge the status quo, while remaining true to who we are.

What do you think is the biggest issue today facing women of your age?

We are less likely to promote ourselves than our male co-workers. We may not put ourselves forward for promotions or apply for new positions where we don’t tick all the boxes. We fail to give ourselves credit on our capabilities. My advice is, no matter where you are in your career, have open discussions with your boss and mentors about what inspires you, what you enjoy and what you want. Embrace things you’re good at while pursuing paths which push your boundaries. You may not be exactly right for a given role, but by taking hold of opportunities in which you can learn and develop, you will flourish.

How important is it for women to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?

The value of having allies throughout your career cannot be stressed enough. I have been fortunate to have female role models to confide in and go to for advice. Talking with people who understand what you’re going through is so important. I encourage women everywhere to look out for one another, so no one is alone.

On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

The only person who can truly stand in your way is you. There will be blockers, stereotypes, difficulties, but don’t let anything stop you. Fuel your own ambition, be yourself, not who other people want you to be. You are unique and will always have a different perspective to bring to the table. Foster relationships, learn from others and above all, help others on your journey, because if you fall or stumble they will likely help to pick you up and dust you off!