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Catherine inspires young women engineers

Suffolk engineer Catherine Beresford has gained national acclaim, featuring in a nationwide hunt for top women engineers.

From Press releases - 9 May 2016 12:00 AM

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Suffolk engineer Catherine Beresford has gained national acclaim, featuring in a nationwide hunt for top women engineers.

Just nine per cent of Britain’s engineers are women, and projections suggest that the UK will be short of thousands of qualified engineers in the next decade. The Telegraph’s Top 50 Women in Engineering poll, backed by the Women’s Engineering Society and sponsored by a range of industry partners, aims to boost female uptake of engineering roles and careers by celebrating the notable achievements made by women in the sector.

Catherine was chosen to star as a case study in the national newspaper and online, to inspire nominations for the Top 50 list. She joined UK Power Networks in 1987 as an engineering trainee and now works as a control engineer, helping to keep the lights on for eight million homes and businesses in London, south east and east England.

She’s also a member of professional union Prospect and one of the organisation’s celebrated “pioneers” – women who work in traditional male industries.

Catherine, 47, from Ditchingham Grove, Rushmere St Andrew, near Ipswich, said: “I’ve been doing this job for a few years now and I never lose the buzz I get from getting supplies back on. You get a bit of an adrenaline rush and it makes you feel good, because you're helping people.

“I managed to get the power back on once during a really big football match. Everyone had gone to the local pub to watch the game and the electricity went off. When we got it working, there was a mighty cheer - people were so happy to be able to watch the football. Things like this make you sit back and realise that you’re doing a good job. And I think that if you’re that way inclined you’ll never be happy unless you're solving problems, using your brain and fixing things.

“There are two main sides to my job. One is linked to everyday maintenance; this means putting in reinforcements such as new substations or even clearing trees to stop power cuts. The other is to deal with faults whenever they occur.”

The mum of three added: “When I was younger, women didn't really have careers in the same way. But I’ve always enjoyed maths and physics, so engineering seemed a good choice. I found a course sponsored by the government to encourage women to go into engineering – my further education would actually be paid for. When I applied for the training, it didn't occur to me that there would be more men than women. It's obvious though really, because for years women wouldn't apply for that kind of job. However, the whole time I've been with the company I don't believe I've been treated any differently. As long as you can do the job it doesn't really matter.

“I'm usually the only woman in the meetings I go to. But it doesn't bother me at all. I'm just one of the team and I do things my own way. In the control room you have 100 different people working: different personalities, different ways of working, all producing the same results.

“We've got a women's network which is very proactive. We get together and have inspirational guest speakers. It's a really good way to meet other women in the company. But I don’t think this industry appeals to huge numbers of people, regardless of gender. I think youngsters these days are more inclined to go into IT, whereas what we're doing is a lot more traditional, so maybe it doesn't have that excitement. But we’re trying to encourage more young people to come to the sector. It's the type of industry where people stay for life. We have a lot of families working here in generations. I'm getting to a point where you see a surname come up and realise they are related to someone else. I think people realise that it's a rewarding job and therefore encourage their siblings and children to join the company as well.”