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Women in Engineering

Belinda Oldfield - BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering

Belinda graduated from Abertay as the only woman in her BEng Civil Engineering class of 1988.  She has worked in land renewal in the Highlands and Islands, managed water treatment works across Scotland and was part of the merger that brought together the three water authorities to create Scottish Water in 2002.  

Now a Senior Leader for Scottish Water, Belinda is responsible for managing the revenue for 2.5 million households and 160,000 businesses across Scotland.  

What does your current job involve?

I am currently a Senior Leader at Scottish Water which involves focusing on the way that Scottish Water is financed and managed.  I am responsible for all of Scottish Water’s revenue for 2.5million households and approximately 160,000 businesses in Scotland. That’s just over £1bn per year.

I am also responsible for Scottish Water’s corporate risk management which involves working with the business to ensure that we understand the risks as we deliver the operational service to customers and as we invest in new assets. 

Why Abertay?

I wanted to study in Scotland and looked at a number of Scottish universities and colleges. I was attracted by the flexibility offered by Abertay, which gave me the opportunity to do a sandwich degree. 

How important was your Abertay degree?

My degree in Civil Engineering has been invaluable. I spent the early part of my career in construction and consultancy in both the private and public sector. My earlier roles include site engineer, resident engineer, project manager, asset manager and capital investment manager.

I have fully utilised my engineering skills which includes being adept at problem solving and understanding complexity as I have progressed into senior leadership roles at Scottish Water.

One of the advantages in my current role is that I fully understand the engineering complexity of the utility service that Scottish Water provides.

Are there advantages of being a woman in engineering?

Women bring different perspectives. Women also tend to be able to put themselves in other people’s shoes which is helpful in terms of outcomes when working with customers.

I would also say that many women are natural bridge builders with good inter-relationship skills.   

Are there any barriers still to be addressed?

This stems back to old paradigms in the education system and with parents which need to change. Less than 50% of parents believe that engineering is a suitable career for their daughter. We need to change this.

What I would say to future students is - please keep going. The profession needs you. Look for role models. Join your professional institution where you will get support.

You can have an exciting career and a family. These aren’t mutually exclusive.