RGS prides itself on offering equal opportunities and creating a gender balance in what can be traditionally seen as a “man’s world”.
Here, to mark International Women’s Day (IWD) on Friday (March 8th), we talk to the RGS women who are carving out highly successful careers.
The Managing Director - Emma Lewis
Encouragement and opportunities are the key to achieving true gender balance says female managing director, Emma Lewis, as she places the spotlight on women’s roles in the engineering sector.
In recognition of IWD, Emma explains what it’s like to take “top spot” in one of the country’s fastest-growing geotechnical companies – Rogers Geotechnical Services in Huddersfield.
Emma says: “Across the industry, we need to do more to appeal and attract women into what is often considered as a male-dominated sector.
“Here at RGS, we do this by offering work experience and opportunities from GSCEs right up to post-graduate level. But there is no positive discrimination – we take males and females from all walks of life and aim to encourage both sexes to strive for equality and excellence.
Emma was pivotal in establishing RGS back in 2005 with Steve and Chay Rogers. The company has gone from strength and strength and is now entering a phase of unprecedented growth.
As MD, Emma leads the RGS Board of Directors and provides strategic direction.
Day to day, she prides herself on a hands-on approach, and can still be seen out “on site” conducting walkover surveys and completing phase one environmental desk studies - or digging the occasional trial hole.
So what type of engineer is Emma? She’s not! Emma obtained a Law Degree from Sheffield University and then capitalised on her skills to provide a solid commercial foundation – which included teaching herself “double book-keeping skills in the early days.
Emma also flies the RGS flag by representing the business at various forums and networking groups, and particularly enjoys her involvement with a local “Women in Leadership” group.
So has it changed? “Well you’ll still get the occasional male who walks through the door and immediately assumes that I am a secretary, purely because I am a woman. But gender stereotypes aren’t on the agenda at RGS and we work together purely as individuals. Of course there are some trends that can be observed in men and women – but we are all different and we play to our skills. That’s the secret of a happy office and our ongoing success.”
Laboratory Manager - Jude Norcliffe
Jude is responsible for running the busy laboratory at RGS, where the emphasis is on compliancy, efficiency and constantly striving for excellence.
She says: “Having a female managing director does lead to very good equal opportunities, both in ethos and attitude from the top down.
“As the only woman in my department, often the only female in this unit, and most often the only woman present on sites, conversations and language can be rather masculine, for want of a better word.
“Having grown up in a predominantly male house this has never offended or perturbed me but we do acknowledge that it may be difficult for some people, both men and women. However, we are respectful at RGS and would always consider other people’s feelings – regardless of gender.
As a family business, RGS is also great at offering flexible working for family duties – and this applies not just to the women but also the men.
Geo-Environmental Engineer - Charlotte Mason
Geo-environmental engineer Charlotte Mason has just returned to RGS and will be leading our expansion into the Midlands by working from our office in Castle Donington.
Charlotte, 24, who has a BSC Geology Degree from the University of Leicester said, “I’m too young to say if things have improved radically in the engineering industry but it’s fair to say that women engineers do still run up against sexism – particularly in other places that I’ve worked.
“We can still go on site as a pair of engineers and some colleagues will automatically assume that the man has seniority by virtue of his gender. But we are taking small steps and I am confident that things will continue to evolve.
So why are you an engineer? I studied science subjects at A Level and I pride myself on problem solving, organisational skills and hopefully having a clear and logical mind. They are all huge assets for anyone aspiring to pursue a career in engineering.
“I have had a huge amount of encouragement from RGS as I first came for a two-week, work experience opportunity from college, then a further stint after graduating and then they offered me a permanent job. I worked elsewhere for a while but it’s great to be back – and opening the new office is hugely challenging and exciting.”
Engineering Support - Katie Wallett
A female mentor and lots of encouragement is what stands out for Katie Wallett when she reflects on her work experience at RGS back in June 2015. She was placed with RGS as she was studying for her Geology A Level. Katie said:
“One thing that I strongly remember from my work placement is the time that Emma spent mentoring me and allowing me to shadow her work. I appreciated her devoting the time to show me how the business works and how reports are written by the engineers. The work experience was also very helpful as I was able to spend time in all departments – from writing reports to undertaking a site walkover and helping with laboratory tests.
After college, I decided to take the non-traditional route of not going to university straight after college. I spent two years in a Leeds law firm which gave me strong office based skills. When my two year contract was coming to an end I started looking for vacancies a little closer to home and I was happy to see that RGS had a vacancy in their office!
Why did you go back to RGS? I was attracted to return because of the good memories and experiences from my work placement.
I have been working for RGS for a few months now, and I am really enjoying the family atmosphere here, and of course Millie the office dog! In addition to this, I have recently started an Open University degree for Business Management.
Emma has supported me with this and helped me read through prospectuses whilst I was deciding which course to take. As with my time on work experience, Emma has spent on training me up with new skills, which I really appreciate. Most recently she has shown me some basics of accounting as this ties in well with a module that I am studying for my Business Management qualification. I do still have lots still to learn, and I am looking forward to doing this with RGS.