by Lucy Rance
This Wednesday’s woman crush is a very inspiring young lady who’s breaking the stereotype of women in construction - an amazing role model to young girls. On the side she runs a beauty and lifestyle blog - now there’s two things you haven’t seen together before!
Ella, or @AuthenticallyElla as she’s known online, is a full time tunnel engineer and part time blogger from Ireland. Proving that construction workers can not only be women, but be glamorous women too! She’s also a very talented make-up artist - the list of talents goes on and on.
We interviewed Ella to chat all things sexism, inspiring other women and of course, building tunnels!
How would you describe your experience starting a career in the construction industry? Was it tough being accepted in a job that’s widely considered a man’s job?
My experience has literally been like a rollercoaster. Like any job, you need to start somewhere and get your handle on learning everything quick, and I mean very quick! Things change so quickly in construction, and there is an almost immediate sense of urgency to get things done - so you always feel like you have something to do, even though (very rarely!!) you might not have anything to do. The experience has its ups and downs - from building things on target to missing deadlines and struggling to keep up. It's difficult to say the least, but its that sense of accomplishment that keeps me going! I have come such a long way since I started, and sometimes I've wanted to quit and I'm not afraid of saying that. But, I've always just kept going because I have such a supportive family and incredible supportive friends.
So why did you decide to go down this career path? What was it that first appealed to you?
I decided I wanted to start working as a Tunnel Engineer and that's what I did! It's not difficult starting a career in tunnelling in London when there are over 15 planned station upgrades, Crossrail 1 and 2, High Speed rail 2 and Thames Tideway tunnels. To me, it's fascinating knowing that people are walking above on the streets not realising what is going on beneath their feet. I just love the work I do, sometimes its related to tunnels and sometimes it's not. Currently, I'm working on a shaft at Holborn. A shaft is basically a big hole in the ground. Building a tunnel means you need to dig a shaft in the ground and once you reach the desired depth then you start digging horizontally and start forming tunnels. My work here is nearly finished and I'm excited to see what the next project will be, whether or not it involves tunnels!
Have you ever experienced sexism or discrimination in your career, because you’re female?
It's almost slightly easier to get accepted as a woman in engineering companies as they are always trying to increase the proportion of women they employ but I cant say the same thing about the people you work with. It is very difficult being accepted as a woman within the industry, you almost always have to prove yourself - which I honestly hate as I am all for female empowerment and don't feel that I should be proving myself to ANYONE!
It's not to say that a career in tunnelling or in the construction industry in general is all fine and dandy though, there is still plenty of sexism going on, and yes, sadly I have encountered it numerous times. The thing is when it happens you're confused and shocked because you don't expect it nowadays, but you can't stay quiet. I always encourage women in construction to report sexism whether its comments or inappropriate behaviour, no matter how small and 'not worth it' it may seem. That's what I've done each and every single time. I have zero tolerance, and I hope that with time and encouraging more women into the industry that it will stop eventually.
I haven't shared this on social media before, but I had an experience whilst working in construction which made me really think about how people's attitude towards women in general still has such a long way to go. I was on my lunch break outside of work, but wearing my orange overalls and an incident occurred in which a man cat called me - I stopped and confronted him. This escalated to two men shouting at me 'you're a woman, you should be catcalled. look at what you're wearing, you should take it, not stand here and tell me you don't want to be called hot. Do you want me to call you ugly instead?'. It was frighting, and I was extremely shaken afterwards, it even made me question why I was still in construction. These men were from another construction site, and I still don't know which one. For the record, I was wearing my orange overalls. I've reported this, but it honestly made me realise how far we as women have to go to ensure these types of mentalities disappear, and that things like this never happen again. That's why it is so so important for us as females to empower each other, to make each other stronger. So that when incidents like this happen, we have the will power and strength to overcome it and stand against it, like I did in that shop in broad daylight. It's also just as important to confront people like I did, every single time you walk by a catcall without confronting it you're letting the person know that it's OK to catcall the next female who walks by. It's something that I feel so strongly about, because I feel that we as women need to ensure this changes and that we confront these people. Female empowerment is a topic which I hold dearly close to my heart, and when I see women out there like confetti crowd and other girl power gangs teaming up to stand up for it, then I feel assured being honest.
We love the empowering posts you write on your blog. What made you start a blog, and what has been the highlight of your blogging career so far?
Part of starting my blog is to help women and young girls start learning about the construction industry and defy all those stereotypes that surround it! I just didn't expect to gain as much interest in my blog, and I am so grateful for everyone who reads it and wants to learn more! The highlight of my blogging career have been the messages I receive from young girls telling me that they look up to me and what I do, and messages from women in engineering positions who tell me that it's good to see more women in engineering. There are very few women in engineering, and when you start looking at projects you really start to notice the 'less than 10%' figure of female engineers come into play! So it's good to see that there is more of us out there virtually! I also had two girls tell me that they are interested in a career in engineering because of what I share on my blog which is absolutely incredible, and i'm so humbled. Other highlights have been featuring in Stellar Magazine and also working on a campaign with Illamasqua which will be released in June. My ultimate blogging goal would be for my blog to be well known within the blogging industry not for beauty, but for the engineering aspect so that it gives maximum exposure to the need for women in engineering!
I love female empowerment, my mum always says that I've been that little sassy girl since as long as she can remember! Growing up with two brothers, before my little sister was born, meant that I always had to try and fight away the 'you're the girl, you can't do this' comments from everyone. I didn't like or want to be treated differently because I'm a girl, so I've always had to prove that I could do things on my own and that I didn't need to be treated differently. I'm still like this today, I always question things whether at work or in general when I feel it's being done 'just because' I'm a woman.
We hope you feel inspired and empowered by this post. You can do anything you want to do!
Make sure you check out Ella's blog www.AuthenticallyElla.com and follow her on Instagram @AuthenticallyElla