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Home » Women in STEM » Why opportunity knocks for women in engineering and construction

Two women working at the sharp end of the engineering and construction industry explain why they joined the sector, what their jobs entail — and why they love what they do.

Jackie Quigley

Graduate Mechanical Engineer, Dornan

Jackie — a biomedical engineering graduate who has a master’s degree in engineering with business — joined engineering and contracting group Dornan in November 2020. She is based at the company’s prefabrication facility in Coventry, UK, and manages a team of engineers.

How long have you been interested in engineering?

My dad has a dairy farm, so I’ve always been practical — although I went to an all-girls’ school so didn’t know much about engineering and construction! In my sixth year, I had a chat with a guidance counsellor who opened my eyes to it.

It’s a male-dominated industry. Did that concern you?

I’ve always been surrounded by men, so it has never fazed me. The guys here are great and very accepting.

What do you like about your job?

The variety. I can spend four hours at my desk looking at mechanical specs, then another four with a spanner in my hand helping the guys on the workshop floor. What we build varies, too. Recently we built an entire chilled water plant room.

What myth about your industry would you like to dispel?

That engineers spend all their time in oily overalls with their head under the bonnet of a car. That’s not the case. Yes, some days I’ll be covered in oil; but on others I’ll be in meetings wearing a suit.

Sorcha O’Sullivan

Apprentice Electrician, Dornan

Sorcha, who has a degree in psychology, joined Dornan in October 2020 and is based in Cork. Her four-year apprenticeship is in electrical instrumentation.

Why did you choose being an electrician over a career in psychology?

I loved psychology but felt as though I wasn’t expending any energy studying it. Whereas with this job, I feel I really achieve something at the end of the day — and I sleep like a baby!

What do your family and friends think about your current role?

They’re not surprised! I did carpentry and furniture-making for a while, and I’ve always loved taking things apart and fixing them. When I was 18, my mum told me I should do an apprenticeship. I ignored her — but she was right.

Why should more women join the industry?

Because it’s really rewarding and enjoyable and offers amazing career pathways. And everyone I work with has been so welcoming.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

At the end of my apprenticeship, I have the option of taking an array of different degrees to help me skill up through the company. So, there’s a lot of opportunity.

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