The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) is aiming to highlight that the sector offers great opportunities for women, to encourage new talent to join this vibrant sector. Construction has a great deal to benefit from a diverse workforce and so we welcome any scheme that opens up conversations and challenges behaviours for the good of us all.

NAWIC is holding Women in Construction (WIC) Week – taking place between March 6-12 this year – so we spoke to some of our female engineers to get their insights into working in the industry, why they were drawn to it and what it can offer to anyone joining.

From the benefits of company placements alongside university to why site experience has been beneficial for them, Konstantina, Ayşegül and Natalja share their experiences. It was positive to hear that they all feel that their work is constantly engaging and the opportunities are diverse, and they would encourage anyone with an interest in how things are built to explore opportunities within the sector.

Who did we speak to:

  • Konstantina Vasilopoulou – Graduate Civil Engineer
  • Ayşegül Gören – Senior Structural Engineer
  • Natalja Petkune – Senior Structural Engineer

Why were you drawn to working as an engineer in the construction sector?

Konstantina: I have always had an interest in structures, so I knew I wanted to go into engineering. Despite not coming from a family of engineers, even from a young age I was interested in creating things and doing DIY. I wanted to deconstruct and re-assemble everything – I found it fascinating.

I did a BEng in Civil Engineering in Greece, where I am originally from, and then I came to the UK to do an MSc in Structural Engineering at the University of Sheffield. Following my graduation, I was looking forward to exploring the possibilities the sector offers, and I’ve found now that I’ve started working that I enjoy a role which gives me the balance between working on site and in the office.

Ayşegül: At high school, I really enjoyed maths and physics and, with a father who is a Mechanical Engineer, I knew engineering would offer me a lot of interest and challenge. I am glad I pursued Civil Engineering and, despite it being a male dominated industry, I enjoy it greatly.

Natalja: Similarly to Ayşegül, I chose my career based on the subjects that fascinated me at school. I always liked physics and maths at school, and I wanted to have a practical application of these two subjects, so I felt engineering would be perfect.

I did my high school education in Latvia, but I wanted to come to the UK for my university education. I undertook both a BEng and a MSc in Civil Engineering, and then a PhD. For my PhD, I Investigated behaviour of hydrid FRP and steel shear walls, which allowed me to develop my analytical and problem solving skills. Prior to working in consultancy sector, I also spent a year working for a small contracting company in London, which gave me great site exposure. I have found this really helpful in giving me some familiarity with the practical aspects of the job, and a more rounded view of the projects that I am working on.

To what extent are engineering roles still gendered? Are women offered the same opportunities as men?

Konstantina:  In our company, we certainly see that male and female engineers have the same opportunities, both in the office and the site works.

Natalja: When I am at work, I feel I am given the exact same opportunity as my male counterparts, there is no different treatment, which is great. Out on site, it is still likely to be the case that men outnumber women, but I have not found this to be problematic. Recently, Konstantina and I went on a night visit to a site. This might have been traditionally perceived as a job a man would be sent to do. Instead, it feels now that opportunities are there for us, rather than a belief that there are only roles for men and women.

Ayşegül: It is rare for women to outnumber men on site, but I did see this once when working on a construction site as part of a joint venture with an Italian company in Turkey. That was the first time I had ever seen so many women on a construction site! Hopefully we will continue see it move more in this direction in the future.

Given the male dominance within the engineering industry, do you think more should be done to encourage girls to pursue a career in engineering?

Natalja: Yes, I think it would be great to attract a lot more females to this industry and I think that needs to start in schools. It’s important to show how diverse and exciting engineering and construction can be. It would be great to have more events to engage more girls to explore engineering, as it is a very fulfilling career.

Do you think it offers a long-term career path for women?

Natalja: I am involved with the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE), and we looked at the statistics of women’s engineering careers. There are dips in employment of women throughout their career, but it showed that this this is just as applicable to men too. There are no boundaries, everyone is free to make their own choice and there is a lot of flexibility in our work.  

Do you feel you have encountered any problems?

Konstantina: There have been occasions when I have been the only woman in a meeting or on a team, but it has never made me uncomfortable. People are focused on the work and the best solution and so their attention goes to that more than anything else.

Natalja: On occasion, perhaps out of habit, people might say “Good afternoon, Gents” but I don’t find that to be a problem. Socially, people are a bit more aware of the language they use in everyday life as well as at work, so it will no doubt continue to become more inclusive.

Speaking for all three of us, we have always felt welcomed as engineers in the construction sector. As an industry we feel it has been changing and evolving to become more diverse and inclusive, and we look forward to seeing more women joining the profession and coming up through the ranks to achieve senior management positions.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Natalja: For me, structural engineering is about problem solving. I like having a challenge in front of me. There might be design of the new structure or just a defect in a wall, which you need to find a solution of how to make it safe again, by strengthening or replacing it. It is about finding various solutions and selecting the most efficient and effective one for specific site conditions.

I also really enjoy being part of a team and discussing different approaches with my colleagues as well. After working from home during lockdown, I realised I really prefer working in the office environment, where solutions can be discussed with colleagues more easily. I think there is a misconception that engineering is quite isolated, but it is actually very collaborative.

Konstantina: I really enjoy that interaction, especially for big projects when you must communicate with the senior managers and engineers from other companies. Another aspect that makes it enjoyable is that every project and discipline is different. Sometimes you follow the same overall process and approach, but every project has its own conditions and considerations, which keeps you on your toes.  

Ayşegül: I always feel like I am learning from one project to another. We experience a wide range of different projects, one might be for a hospital or another one on a railway. Although there is always so much to learn, each one gives me the sense that I am improving my skills. It makes me feel fulfilled when projects are completed, and I have contributed something valuable.

Natalja: Continuous professional development is important for me too. At the beginning of our career, we undertake initial professional development to become chartered engineers. Once we have achieved this, we continue to develop our skills. That’s what is great about engineering, you never stop learning.

What advice would you give to anyone who is considering the field?

Natalja: I would suggest doing a work placement alongside studying or during summer, whether that is for a week, month or several months. It offers a good opportunity to learn what the industry is about. Alternatively, a lot of universities now offer degree-apprenticeships where you can be based within the company and university at the same time. This gives great exposure to practical and academic skills at the same time, and helps you understand the relationship between what you are learning in lectures and the real-life applications of that.

Konstantina: I agree, I think placements are also useful to see how the whole process works, from tendering to completion, which is valuable experience. I would suggest young engineers try to experience both construction site work and design work in the office, to experience several aspects of the industry.

Ayşegül: Sometimes people may not feel confident entering a new workplace, so if a placement can give them the chance to experience that in advance, it may give them more confidence when they get a job after graduating.

After speaking to Konstantina, Ayşegül and Natalja, it is clear that they feel that their passion for engineering is rewarded with team collaboration, diverse project opportunities and ongoing learning. The opportunities are clear and women should feel there is a lot to be gained from working within the sector.

Asa Whitfield, Managing Director at Whitfield Consulting Services, added his thoughts, “Encouraging diversity broadens the talent pool which affords us more opportunities to employ the best people for the job. No-one should feel that the sector couldn’t offer them a role where they can feel respected and fulfilled. We are glad to have Konstantina, Ayşegül and Natalja as part of the team as they, like all our employees, bring unique experiences and perspectives that help us to create the best designs for our clients.”

If you would like to find out more about job opportunities and get more details about the civil engineering designs that Whitfield Consulting Services provide for clients in rail and energy sectors, contact us at, or call +44 2089 383705.