Ginny Clarke CBE FREng is former Board Director of Strategy and Planning at Highways England
“I was very interested in using the maths and physics I had studied at school to do something practical.”
How would you describe your current role to someone who knows nothing about engineering?
My role as Director for Strategy and Planning and Board Director at Highways England has allowed me to use my engineering knowledge to develop longer-term planning for strategic roads in England. This includes considering how to balance the long-term life and availability of the road network with the costs of improvement, maintenance and operation. These are aspects that affect many people every day and engineering is an important part.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
I was very interested in using the maths and physics I had studied at school to do something practical. My parents encouraged me to look more widely at the variety of courses on offer at universities. At the same time, the Humber Bridge was beginning construction near where I lived and this provided me with practical work during summer breaks while I was a student. This fantastic experience on site reinforced my enthusiasm for civil engineering at an early age and encouraged me to become an engineer.
What do you like most about being an engineer?
The opportunity to be part of planning, constructing and operating the very necessary services and infrastructure we need for our everyday life. There are many challenges in the work that engineers undertake and that provides satisfaction in being able to plan and achieve the solutions to those challenges. Over my career I have had a variety of experiences in my roles and engineering has been an excellent education for dealing with that variety.
Tell us about an achievement which you are most proud of.
I have worked on many projects and with many teams where I have been very proud to be part of what has been achieved. For me, the greatest satisfaction has come from being able to contribute to successful projects or the delivery of a service.
How do you think gender parity in engineering can be achieved?
The most important factor will be to get more women interested in engineering. There are still insufficient numbers of girls and women involved in all aspects of engineering to provide the overwhelming presence of women that will make parity inevitable. Focusing on improving and making engineering more accessible to young people is an important path; this is a long-term activity and needs engagement from all generations.
How has being a woman in engineering changed since you started working in the engineering sector?
There have been many changes over the 40 years I have been working in engineering. The most obvious is the greater number of women in the profession and, more importantly, the numbers at senior levels in organisations. Thankfully, the novelty aspect of being a senior engineer has reduced but there remain real issues about the number of women in senior posts in all sectors of engineering. As a profession we need to challenge organisations about why there are so few women being successfully recruited and promoted into senior roles.
What would you say to someone considering a career in engineering?
Engineering has a wide range of roles with many different skills required that provide fascinating and varied opportunities for people. As engineering contributes to so many things in our society, careers in these fields are very worthwhile as well as fascinating. The important thing to focus on is the outcomes that can be achieved having engineering as a profession.