MEP engineering consultancy Desco, is delighted to welcome new recruit Saffi Song, to further bolster its electrical design team. Her appointment brings the practice’s growing number of women engineers to fifteen.
Saffi will be based at the practice’s Sunderland head office, from where she’ll be designing electrical building systems for a broad range of construction projects. Working from the same office are four other fellow female engineers – Louise Gifford and Summer Balmer, who’ve both recently celebrated graduating with degrees in Building Services Engineering and Electrical and Electronic Engineering, respectively, from Northumbria University, alongside Ginelle Alvares, who’s a key member of Desco’s Building Physics team, and senior mechanical engineer Rachael Smith. Ten more women engineering colleagues are based in Desco’s London and Manila offices.
The first challenge Saffi will be getting stuck into is the £38m refurbishment of Wolverhampton’s Grade II-listed Civic Hall and its sister venue Wulfrun Hall. Commenting on her new role, Saffi said: “I’m thrilled to have joined Desco and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my first few weeks here. The civic halls project is a really interesting one and I’m finding it very rewarding to be able to use my technical skills and knowledge of renewable and sustainable energies to bring these prominent buildings up to a standard fit for the twenty-first century.”
Desco Operations Director, Kevin Hall, explains why Saffi’s appointment and the continued growth in women engineers is good for business: “Desco has always actively encouraged staff diversity and recruits diverse people with broad-ranging skills from time-served trade backgrounds, apprentices and university graduates to chartered engineers; each different person adds a new facet to our team and brings their own individual experiences to our projects.”
“For us, the focus has always been on selecting the best person with the most relevant experience for the role in question – irrespective of characteristics such as gender, yet it hasn’t gone unnoticed that historically, there’s been a lack of female candidates applying for engineering posts. It’s been frustrating as we’ve always wanted our teams to be as skilled and diverse as possible, so we can embrace these differences of approach and ideas in the services we deliver.”
This is not a challenge unique to Desco, however. The latest figures published by the Women’s Engineering Society show only 12% of engineers in the UK are female.
Kevin continues: “For a long time, the construction and engineering industries seemed to be doing little to challenge this status quo. In fact, during Desco’s founding years, we had no female engineers on our payroll and applications from women were scarce. Thankfully this is changing. We have noticed vast increases in the numbers of women entering the industry in recent years, and we’re lucky to have a raft of female engineers now in key positions at Desco – but there is still much more room for improvement.”
Explaining how Desco is playing its part in encouraging more diversity in the industry as a whole, Kevin says: “Through careers events and special initiatives in schools, we try to reach children at a young age, to break down any preconceived ideas or prejudices they might have, and show them the exciting career opportunities available to them in engineering and construction.” He adds: “We will always continue to encourage and welcome applications from women and other underrepresented groups to ensure we continue to harness diversity in our teams and through our work.”
In its efforts to boost diversity and empower its employees, Desco also lends its support to several specialist training, development and networking organisations such as G4C – Generation for Change, CIBSE’s Young Engineers’ Network, National Association of Women in Construction, Women in Property and the award-winning PlanBEE initiative, in conjunction with Gateshead College and Northumbria University, as well as STEM Ambassador activities and careers events in schools and colleges across the UK.