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International Women in Engineering Day 2020

23 Jun 2020

International Women in Engineering Day encourages people across the globe to raise the profile of women working as engineers. Engineering spans a range of disciplines and offers exciting career opportunities for people of all genders.

This year’s theme is ‘Shape the World’ and refers to the way the women working in this industry help mould their environments through their diverse ideas, skills and dedication to the job.

To mark the day, we spoke to six female engineers working on Level Crossing Removal Projects asking them what they love about the job, how they came to work in the field and what advice they’d give others wanting to choose engineering for a career.

Sophia Porter


Sophia Porter joined the Level Crossing Removal Project as part of the first graduate program cohort after studying Environmental Engineering. It was during her train commute to Monash University that she was inspired to apply for the program as she saw the work happening on the Caulfield to Dandenong project.

“I was like – oh my God, could you imagine how cool it would be to work on that project?” she recalls.

After experiencing her own self-doubt along the way, her approach to the idea that engineering is a male dominated industry is to give it a go and speak up.

“If you think you can, then you just got to give it a shot,” she says.

“Everyone has a voice and ideas and by not encouraging or supporting diversity in the workplace, not just for women but from all walks of life, then you really are limiting the capability and success of your workforce.”

Since joining LXRP, Sophia has worked on the Buckley Street Level Crossing Removal Project and is now involved in the planning stage of the Pakenham project.

Mahnaz Shilani


Senior Project Manager Mahnaz Shilani joined the Level Crossing Removal Project team four years ago after working in the water industry and on other Victorian rail projects.

Her responsibilities have varied from engineering, construction, project and contract management and she was part of the team that delivered the Caulfield to Dandenong level crossing removal project, something she is immensely proud of.

“I get to transform the way Victorian’s live and work and travel, I provide the outputs Victorians expect and that’s quite rewarding,” she says.

Her advice to other women wanting to join the industry is to “be passionate” and “back-yourself”.

“Engineering involves everyone and impacts all of us – therefore greater diversity is important,” she says.

“Believe in yourself and don’t get put off by other people’s comments or actions. Take every single opportunity to learn and keep on smiling. Have some fun because that’s the key to success.”

Mahnaz is currently working on the planning phase of the Glenroy Road Level Crossing Removal Project.

Hazel Balod


As a child, Engineering Coordinator Hazel Balod always loved learning how things ‘worked’. Her interest in science and information technology led her to realising that these principles are at the core of engineering.

Following a Civil Engineering degree, she worked as a geotechnical engineer and worked as a consultant before joining the Level Crossing Removal Project in 2015.

She enjoys working on the complex level crossing removal projects and the diversity of backgrounds that her team relies on.

“It’s not a man’s job anymore. Engineering can lead you to many different opportunities and many different disciplines and jobs, now and in the future,” she says.

“The industry needs people, and needs people from different backgrounds to really challenge our thinking and create more innovation in the industry. That’s only going to come if there’s more people from different backgrounds - men and women – who join the industry and bring those fresh ideas forward.”

“If you’re interested in solving problems, in seeing how things get built, then there’s definitely a place in this industry for you.”

Hazel has worked on the Camp Road, Buckley Street and the Toorak Road level crossing removal projects.

Janice Yu


Project Development Manager Janice Yu has 20 years of experience working on a range of engineering projects in transport, oil and gas infrastructure. She started her career in Eastern Canada before moving to Australia where she has worked on the western and eastern seaboard. But engineering wasn’t on her radar as a career early on. It was her father that gave her the nudge.

“Initially, I didn't choose engineering. I was thinking of studying languages until my father asked me six-word question, "What do you have to lose?”

Janice followed her engineering studies with an MBA and is a strong believer in stepping up to the plate, no matter your gender.

“There are so many opportunities available to you with your credentials. And how you work with those credentials and your motivation and perseverance and your gumption and grit will get you where you need to be,” she says.

Her skills mean she has never had trouble finding a job, no matter where in the world she is. And she loves the feeling of providing infrastructure renewal and public safety.

“The feeling of pride in my work, that I've delivered, is amazing because I can name off many cities that I've worked in and know that I've improved the infrastructure to increase public safety for the community.”

Janice has worked as a Project Manager on the Frankston Line and currently works in the business case team at the Level Crossing Removal Project.

Miko Morell


Miko Morell is a site engineer who likes to be on the job outside. After being encouraged by her parents to work through a degree in engineering – she realised how well suited to the career path she really was.

“The best part of my job I’d have to say is not being inside. I really enjoy the fact that I don’t have to sit at a computer for nine or 10 hours a day answering the phone all the time,” she says.

Her job sees her working with subcontractors, suppliers and designers to make project drawings and plans into something tangible.

“It’s actually quite a social job, and you get to see what it is that you’re making become something – so it’s quite rewarding as well.”

Despite the long hours and pressure at the peak of a project, Miko says she has never regretted the decision to become an engineer.

“Now’s a good time to become an engineer because the industry is just growing. There’s just so much happening and it’s not even in just construction.”

Miko is working on the Frankston and Mentone level crossing removal projects.

Jenny Terpstra


Project Manager Jenny Terpstra has worked on a range of infrastructure Victorian infrastructure projects since graduating from a Bachelor of Civil Engineering in 2007. She started working on level crossing removal projects in 2018.

Jenny says throughout her career she’s noticed a somewhat more flexible ‘plastic ceiling’ (rather than the more solid glass) still challenging women in the industry and that it is up to women to push through.

“I feel that the opportunity is there at the moment where the industry is starting to realize that the approach that women do have in engineering is quite diverse, and it gives you the opportunity to explore different options,” she says.

Not one to be behind a desk, her love of engineering is rooted in wanting to ‘get in the dirt’ and problem solve. Her advice to women with the same interests is to persevere.

“Keep doing what you’re doing – keep playing in the dirt and keep playing with the boys because you’re just as capable,” she says.

“For women to no longer be a minority, you have to be able to champion yourself and market yourself in order to make the change.”

Jenny is working on the Robinsons Road and Fitzgerald Road Level Crossing Removal Projects.

Useful links

  • The Conversation, ‘Walking into a headwind’ – what it feels like for women building science careers
  • Australian Academy of Science, Women in STEM Decadal Plan
  • Engineering Pathways Industry Cadetship (EPIC) Program
    Expressions of interest are sought from refugee and asylum seekers with a Bachelor Degree in Engineering (civil or related) to participate. Please speak to your employment services provider to register for EPIC 2021. Participating organisations are:
    • Jesuit Social Services
    • Brotherhood of St Lawrence
    • AMES
    • Multicultural Consulting
    Information sessions will be held prior to the program intake, so candidates can find out about the prerequisites and eligibility criteria.
  • GROW
    The GROW program seeks to introduce people from marginalised or disadvantaged backgrounds – including asylum seekers, refugees and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – to training and employment opportunities in the transport and construction industries.
  • Rail Signalling Engineer Cadetship Program
    The Rail Signalling Engineer Cadetship is open to recent engineering graduates from a range of disciplines and provides a fully paid, three-year cadetship with placements at a range of Australia’s biggest rail and construction operators. Upon completion of the program, cadets are awarded a Graduate Diploma of Railway Signalling Systems. Women are highly sought after and strongly encouraged to apply.
  • Secondary School – STEM Workshop
    Rail Academy, with Jacobs Engineering Group and industry partners, is offering a free STEM webinar during the time of remote learning. Rail Academy's STEM webinar will be an opportunity for Year 7 to 10 students to engage with some of Victoria's foremost female industry leaders and design a station based on a list of components and materials. The students will learn through this webinar that when building a new station there are a range of considerations that can be made to reduce the cost/embodied emissions of the materials and the sustainable development goals that their station design may contribute to.

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