International Women’s Day: women in the field
What is your role within the Rivers Trust movement? What does a typical day look like?
I’m the Catchment and Education Office for Norfolk Rivers Trust. No day is the same for me! I am involved in so many projects in various ways. My degree was in Ecology at the UEA but my career path took a slight diversion into outdoor education; I also worked in retail and events before university, so my experience is quite broad. Generally I do survey work, public events, education, bid writing and river restoration project management and I also chair the Norfolk Crayfish Group.
What’s your favourite thing about your current role?
I love that every day is different. I also love working with the team at NRT – we are like a family and work really well together.
As a woman, have you faced any particular challenges during your career?
Yes, in my current role, occasionally I feel that men don’t take me seriously, especially when it comes to river restoration projects involving engineering and technical terminology. In previous roles I have had suggestive remarks and even inappropriate physical contact from men in the workplace.
What are the current challenges faced by women in your sector?
Some male landowners and farmers not taking women seriously is probably one of the biggest challenges faced time and time again. My female colleagues have all suffered when doing site visits, farm advice, management plans and project delivery. On a less serious note, being less well adapted to wild wees can be a nuisance!
What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in your job area?
Be bold and go for it! We need to make it “the norm” to have women working on construction sites and doing “traditional male roles” otherwise it will never change.
Is there a particular woman who inspires you?
Angela Gurnell at Queen Mary’s University for her intelligence, and also my Mum and Gran for not being afraid to get stuck in and get mucky. My mum and dad ran a building firm and my granny was a farmer and keen gardener so I grew up in South Africa helping on building sites and farms and being outside in the mud all day as a child – I thrive on fresh air and keeping busy.
If you could travel back in time to the very beginning of your career, what would you tell your younger self?
I would go back to A levels and tell myself to do the A levels in Engineering and Biology that I was interested in. I didn’t do Engineering because there weren’t any other girls on the course and I had already been bullied for being masculine. I couldn’t take Biology due to a clash in timetables so I did Law and Physics instead and failed both because I hated them. That affected the rest of my future because I made choices based on my head, not on my heart. It set me back a few years in my career but eventually I followed my heart. I went back to university at the age of 25, did a Science Foundation course followed by the Ecology degree and now my heart couldn’t be fuller.