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WSPs Beth Holroyd is making safety seen in construction

WSP's Beth Holroyd is making safety seen in construction

 June 23, 2023

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WSP is honoring International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) and highlighting its theme, Make Safety Seen. The company is committed to continually fostering a culture of inclusion and belonging, where all its colleagues are welcomed in their careers.

Meet WSP Health and Safety Business Partner Beth Holroyd who is a dynamic Health and Safety (H&S) expert. Beth’s perspectives fit right in with WSP's aspirations, where the company fosters an inclusive environment that everyone can thrive in.

Here, Beth shares her insights on the importance of belonging and visibility, starting with her early days as one of the few women on construction sites, to the industry influencer she has become, inspiring women to follow in her footsteps to pursue careers that were once dominated by men.

Motivation to pursue a career in Engineering

Beth attended an all-girls school and engineering and construction were not promoted. So, when it came to deciding on her future career, Beth had no idea they even existed.

"I knew someone at the time who was studying Civil Engineering and with my passion for science, design, and math, they suggested it would be a good fit for me," says Beth.

"Being the impulsive person I am, I jumped right in and applied to study civil engineering. Some people told me that going to a construction college was only for boys or tradesmen. My design teacher was the only educator who offered her full support to pursue engineering because she recognized my drive and aptitude."

Driven by her impact on the industry

Beth explains that she is not inspired by anyone in particular, and instead is independently driven by the impact she can leave on the industry, in leading change towards a more welcoming and inclusive place for the women that follow.

"I believe that my career is so much more than just doing my day job. Beyond wanting to succeed, I want to feel that I am making a difference," comments Beth.

"I came from a working-class background, and I was the first person in my family to pursue advanced studies. When I entered this field, I was the only girl in the class—and I remember being very nervous. I don’t want women to feel like I did, like a square peg in a round hole," Beth adds.

A commitment to championing construction and Health and Safety

When Beth first started out, she spent a lot of time on construction sites and rarely saw any female faces. For years, this didn’t bother her. Beth just thought girls just weren’t interested in this field, and then she realized that wasn’t true.

"I remembered I fell into this by accident, so I changed my perspective which led to my passion for promoting engineering. I knew I had to start making ‘noise’. I started reaching out to institutions and organisations asking them to work with me on promoting STEM professions. And now they reach out to me to speak at industry events, work on national campaigns and influence changes to policy," explains Beth.

"In the UK, it is estimated that about 21 per cent of the Health & Safety (H&S) industry is female, and the overall construction industry is about 16 per cent female. I want to play a role in making these numbers close to equal!"

WSP International Women in Engineering

Feeling a sense of belonging and inclusion in the construction industry

Beth has faced scrutiny, sexist remarks, and online abuse, with members of the public sometimes making unacceptable comments.

"I don’t care because I am not looking for validation. I’m doing my job. When I see this type of behaviour, I call it out immediately," says Beth.

"More importantly, throughout my career I’ve forged a strong bond with some of my colleagues who continue to be incredibly supportive. I felt a profound sense of belonging in this group even though we had different ages, nationalities, and careers. When I did face some online abuse, they quickly jumped to my defense. These feelings of belonging and inclusion helped form my aspirations, to bring the incredible support and acceptance I had with them to the wider industry," Beth explains.

"I tell women interested in pursuing a career in engineering that the industry is filled with exceptional people, and the women that came before them will be incredibly supportive because they remember the feeling of being among the few females in the room."

Dealing with obstacles faced as a woman in construction

Early in Beth's career, it was difficult for her to share her voice.

"I was nervous about speaking out because I didn’t look like everybody else."

"I developed the confidence along the way and found my voice. Knowing what It's like to feel like an outsider, I constantly encourage younger colleagues to speak up because I want them to have a safe space to contribute their ideas or concerns," Beth adds.

Beth's advice to women who are new to engineering, construction and health and safety

Beth's advice to women who are completing their studies now, or new to engineering, construction and health and safety would that they should just be themselves.

"Don't try to emulate the behaviour of your male peers as I did early in my career. I thought it was the way to make my voice heard. Today I am unapologetically myself. I’ve been selected for this role, and I am going to stay true to myself," says Beth.

"People won't always like your opinions, behaviours, or the way that you work. But if your intentions are good, other people’s negative opinions and feelings don’t matter. Don't make yourself small, be big and loud and noisy! Take up space and just be yourself."

"As an engineer, you have the opportunity to leave your legacy in this industry," concludes Beth.

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