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Building Bridges: Paula Crick's Path in Construction and STEM Advocacy


Building Bridges: Paula Crick's Path in Construction and STEM Advocacy

In celebration of Women in Construction Week, we're thrilled to present an interview with Paula Crick, a trailblazer and Project Manager in our UK team who has been a driving force behind our STEM school outreach program.

Paula shares insights into the program's inception and the impact it has made in inspiring high school students towards engineering careers. Beyond the program, Paula delves into her personal journey in the construction industry, highlighting the strides she's taken and the obstacles she's navigated as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field. From the unexpected shift from accounting to engineering to her passion for increasing diversity and inclusivity in the sector, Paula's story is a testament to the changing landscape of construction and engineering.


Can you tell us about the STEM School Outreach Program?

The idea was initially created by myself with input from IPS team members within the Diversity Equity & Inclusion council as part of a charter to reach out to high school students to increase awareness of engineering as a career for all students. The program itself consists of teams of students designing a ‘Serum Production Facility’ to stop the spread of a Zombie infection. Students need to make considerations for several variables, including: the environment, process flow, sterilisation, scheduling, budgeting, and sustainability. The various stages of the challenge encourage learning outcomes of: Teamwork, Communication, Mathematics, Problem solving, Scientific theory, and Presentation skills.


What is your favourite aspect of the program?

The energy from the students as they work through the tasks & manage their team diversity under the time pressures.


Can you tell us about your role in the construction/STEM industry and what drew you to this field?

I was never drawn into this industry as had no idea what kind of work it entailed – I applied for an accountancy apprenticeship at GEC Steam Turbines and there was a drive to get women into engineering, during the interview they asked if I would be interested in a Technician Apprenticeship. They wow’d me with the Heavy Machinery in the factory that I had never seen before & it looked exciting. At 18 I took the decision to start the apprenticeship, due to the benefits of all my studies through to a Degree in Mechanical engineering being paid for. I never looked back, and it turned out to be one of the best decision I took at such a young age.


What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced as a woman in the construction/STEM industry?

In my younger years there was always an underlying feeling of ‘she won’t have a clue’ so I always had to prove myself at the start of any project to gain respect for my ability & work that bit harder to ensure I had the knowledge.


In your opinion, how has the perception of women in construction changed over the years?

In the last 20years there is less of an expectation that a women is solely based in the admin roles & it is less of a shock when they are in the roles of Lead Engineers / Project Managers.


What do you think can be done to improve the culture within the construction industry to be more inclusive and supportive of women?

There is still a level of ‘old boys’ club within the industry which is slowly breaking down but corporate days need to be more diverse away for the 18holes on the golf course to be more inclusive with various other activities.


What advice would you give to young women considering a career in construction or other STEM fields?

Never be afraid to ask the so called stupid questions – I guarantee most the people in the room also didn’t know but were too afraid to ask. The more you ask the more you’ll learn & the quicker your knowledge will develop to be ahead of the game.


Looking forward, what changes or developments do you hope to see for women in the construction industry?

The promotion of STEM with secondary schools is key to show young women the opportunities available for them as a career within this industry so not only do they have nursing, teaching pushed towards them they are also thinking about engineering. The industry advertising of projects completed with a clear diverse project team will help to provide that visibility to outside world that this industry is inclusive to all.


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