(L-R) Planning engineer Helena Sutherland, civil engineer Zara Bostock, environmental advisor Lisa Hunt and graduate site engineer Georgia Kelly

Women engineers are breaking stereotypes at a major dam upgrade on Australia’s Sunshine Coast.

The $24 million upgrade of Ewen Maddock Dam is being carried out by water company Seqwater, Hall Contracting and design consultants GHD.

It began last March to strengthen the existing embankment and increase the dam’s floodwater capacity to bring it in line with modern engineering design standards.

Of the three engineers Seqwater has onsite, two are female; Hall Contracting has four women working in key roles, including two engineers; and GHD has an engineering team made of up of about 50 per cent women who are working on the project.

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Seqwater principal dam engineer Anna Hams said it was encouraging to see greater diversity in gender represented on such a significant project.

“As an engineer, I have certainty noticed a shift over the past decade in terms of more women pursuing engineering as a career,” she said.

“In the past, women were discouraged from undertaking studies in the fields of math and science, which ultimately lead to less of an interest in engineering during tertiary studies and beyond.

“Retention in the field was compromised as there was a lack of mentoring and career development opportunities, as well as the view that having a career break to have children meant that your engineering career was concluded.”

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Hams said she believed having a diverse group of people working on projects offered different perspectives and approaches to solving problems to enable effective delivery and enhanced ways of working.

According to a report by Engineers Australia, the proportion of women in the engineering labour force has gradually risen from 10.6% in 2006 to 13.6% in 2016.

Women engineers turn gender tide on dam project
Georgia Kelly

Hall Contracting civil engineer Georgia Kelly is working on the Ewen Maddock Dam upgrade. She said she had sought a career in engineering because she felt it was a line of work that suited to her strengths.

“I hadn’t considered engineering as a career option until a friend of mine pointed me in that direction. The more I learned about it, the more it interested me.

“I was aware that it was a male-dominated industry but never let that discourage me from pursuing a career in the field.”