International Women’s Day: Equality means meritocracy


Alison Waterworth, rail project manager at Mott MacDonald, on why equality means more meritocracy.

This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Balance for Better’. One key point the campaign suggests is that balance is not just a women’s issue: it is a business issue.

Working in an industry, which is predominantly male, such as the construction industry, really makes this day an important one.


This day, in my experience, has been synonymous with the inevitable question: 'Why don’t we get a man’s day?' – to which I always respond with: 'Every day is a man’s day!'

This question, whether in jest or not, highlights the real need to celebrate even just this one day a year for women.

I recently joined the Rail Team in the Altrincham office of Mott MacDonald. Having spent the best part of 10 years working my way up the ranks and gaining the respect of my peers in my previous company, the move was a bold leap into the unknown. While both companies have their merits and similarities, one of my key drivers for moving was the 27% female representation in the team I was joining.

Granted, over the years I have worked with several wonderful female colleagues, but such a high percentage of women in one team was not something I was used to, and I relished the opportunity to have the companionship of other women in the workplace.

To say the move has been lifechanging I would imagine might make you scoff, or suggest I am being a tad dramatic, but working with a team of confident, competent and lovely women has made a change to my outlook on work-life balance and my general feeling of calm in the workplace.

I used to believe that for a woman to succeed in this industry she had to be tough, and over the years I have developed Teflon shoulders and am quick with a witty retort; but this is no longer my belief. Moving into the next stage of my career I am looking to embrace my own softer side, and I realise my new team offers the gender balance in the workplace I was looking for, to do just that.

Companies, such as Mott MacDonald, recognise the need to attract and support women in this industry and are actively working to provide mentoring and guidance for those who are brave enough to join us. The success of women in any industry attracts other ambitious women, and any businesses not using their successful women to bring in new talent is surely missing a trick.

My advice for those young women considering a career or an apprenticeship in the construction industry is to take that leap of faith into the unknown and know that there will be other women there to catch you!

As for me, I will continue to be the tough cookie who can handle even the most demanding of clients, but alongside my equally capable and determined female colleagues, I hope to help change the perception of us from the hard-nosed women in engineering to the fun-loving and ambitious ladies that we are.

Where numbers are more equal, we can all be judged by ability, not gender.

Register now for full access

Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

comments powered by Disqus
highways jobs

Environment Officer

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£29,909 – £32,233 Grade 11 - £33,136 - £35,229
All Environment Officers lead, project manage and/or co-ordinate large environmental projects... Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

MCA Hub Co-ordinator

Camden London Borough Council
£40,028 - £46,431
You will lead on the co-ordination of the North and Central Area Mayor’s Construction Academy (MCA) Hub. London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Highways Estimator

Competitive Salary
As the Highways Estimator you will join a busy environment and become an integral part of the team. Hounslow (London Borough), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Ringway

County Highways Manager

Lincolnshire County Council
£55,503 - £60,578
Seeking a highly motivated leader and an excellent communicator, who has a proven ability to build relationships and trust, leading by example. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Local Highways Manager (East) - Lincolnshire County Council

Lincolnshire County Council
G12 £43,662 - £50,430
Seeking someone who combines excellent technical knowledge with a dedication to the customer. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Assistant Director (Planning, Regeneration & Transport)

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
£87,791 per annum  
This is an exciting time to join Rotherham and make a real difference. We are looking for an outstanding Assistant Director who will bring... Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Recuriter: Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Corporate Director

Islington London Borough Council
Up to £135k
You will share our values and be passionate about helping us shape the Islington of the future. Islington, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Islington London Borough Council

Assistant Engineer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£21,074 - £30,756
Looking for strong team players interested in working with a variety of professional and community partners across Cambridgeshire. Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Junior Energy Manager Apprentice

Brent Council
£15,000 p.a. inc.
The right person for this job will be pro-active and innovative in finding a way forward. Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Career Grade Drainage Engineer

Swindon Borough Council
£19,092 to £40,680 p.a
Working in the asset management team, you’ll support the work of the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) and Highways Authority. Swindon, Wiltshire
Recuriter: Swindon Borough Council

Highway Construction Project Manager

Brent Council
£50,442 - £53,526 p.a. inc.
We are looking for an accomplished highway construction project manager to support the delivery of two high priority highway schemes. Brent, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Traffic Signals & UTMC Manager

Bristol City Council
£42,683 - £45,591
Looking for someone with proven management experience, enthusiasm, creativity, vision and good communication skills. City of Bristol
Recuriter: Bristol City Council

Principal Highways Project Engineer

Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council
£34,106 - £35,229 per annum
The post holder will be responsible for project managing the delivery of two highway projects on the Key Route Network. Knowsley (Metropolitan borough), Merseyside
Recuriter: Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council

Traffic Schemes Officer

Oxfordshire County Council
£22,021 - £29,636 per annum
An exciting opportunity has arisen to play a central role with the Traffic Team in the maintenance of the highway network... Kidlington, Oxfordshire
Recuriter: Oxfordshire County Council

Traffic Engineer

Telford & Wrekin Council
£29,055 to £30,756
This is an exciting opportunity to join Telford & Wrekin Council’s Traffic Management Team! Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Assistant Engineer – Traffic Regulation

Telford & Wrekin Council
£23,866 to £25,463
This is an exciting opportunity to join Telford & Wrekin Council’s Traffic Management Team. Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Highways Quantity Surveyor

Leicester City Council
£30,756 - £33,136 pro-rata per annum
Working in the Highways Maintenance Group, you will be responsible for the operational highway maintenance activities Leicester, Leicestershire
Recuriter: Leicester City Council

Highways Engineer/Inspector

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£22956 - £32637 per annum
Highways Engineer/Inspector - PermanentThere are plenty of reasons to take a closer look at Royal Greenwich.Royal Greenwich is undergoing a huge trans England, London, Woolwich
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Engineer - Bridges

Cambridgeshire County Council
£32,825 - £35,401
We have a vacancy for a Structures Engineer working within the Bridge’s team! Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council


Cambridgeshire County Council
£32,825 - £35,401
You will be required to lead the delivery of a wide range of highway improvements and maintenance projects... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council