Meet the women helping to transform one of the region's most notorious congestion hotspots
22 Jun 2022
International Women in Engineering Day 2022 celebrates the amazing work that women engineers around the world are doing to support lives and livelihoods every day. Women have the wrong skills and men covered in oil are among the biggest misconceptions about engineering.
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As a part of International Women in Engineering Day 2022, we’re celebrating the women who are helping to transform journeys between Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge as part of the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet improvements.
Leading the way in engineering are senior project manager Lorraine Bennetts, design manager Kat Draper, principal designer Victoria Godberford-Orton and drainage asset lead Jenni Stout. All are part of the team helping to deliver the new road improvements.
Love for engineering
Lorraine’s day-to-day job for National Highways involves ensuring that advanced works that support the road improvements (ahead of planning permission being granted) are in place. She said her love for engineering came from her father:
“My father was an engineer for Eastern Electricity which sowed the seed to get me involved in engineering. I then joined Young Engineers at secondary school which led to my A Level choices and then do a civil engineering degree.”
Her love for the job is echoed by drainage asset lead Jenni Stout who primarily works with the scheme designers to help provide guidance on the design for maintenance elements:
“I love that every day can be different, and I love the feeling of overcoming a difficult problem successfully. I also love making a difference for road users and the public, knowing what I have done has made a significant positive impact.”
Misconceptions about engineering
Kat Draper says: “The biggest misconception is that women have the wrong skills. Everybody has different skill sets and capabilities. These aren’t defined by gender”.
Kat first considered a career in forensic science, marine biology and architecture before settling on civil engineering. She added: “If people have certain skills or are good and keen to do certain roles, let them do a role that utilises those skills. The best teams will have different skills, emotions, and personalities within them, and this provides resilience and balance.”
Victoria Godberford-Orton, who founded her own business in 2006 and primarily works with the design team reviewing potential hazards, agrees: “Many people think about a man in overalls, covered in oil with a spanner in their hands, when you say the word ‘engineer,’ this simply isn’t true.”
So what is their advice to women looking to break into engineering…
Lorraine Bennetts, who started working on the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet improvements in 2018 urges women who are thinking about a career in engineering to just do it:
“Try it and don’t over think it – there are many different areas of engineering and there will be something that suits your interests.”
Victoria echos similar encouragement: “There are SO many diverse roles within engineering. Never question what you are interested in or have a passion to learn more about, get on and do it. Who knows where it might lead. Grab every opportunity with both hands and run with it.
“When I first started out, there were many times where I have felt a little uncomfortable, frequently being the only woman in meetings, but I have learnt to turn those feelings into something positive by learning that gender really doesn’t factor here, it’s your brain and character that counts. Nowadays, I don’t even think about it!”
What is happening now with the proposed road improvements?
We’re waiting for planning consent to be granted. The Planning Inspectorate’s examining authority has now sent their recommendation report to the Secretary of State for Transport. The Secretary of State is currently reviewing this report and will decide on whether to grant consent of the improvements in late Summer 2022.