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Viewpoint: Empowering women in engineering


P. FITZPATRICK, Vice President of Projects, Kent PLC

International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is celebrated worldwide on June 23 every year to honor women in the engineering field. H2Tech (H2T) sat down with Paula Fitzpatrick (PF), VP of Projects for the U.S., at Kent for an exclusive Q&A in celebration of INWED.

H2T: What made you choose a career in engineering?

PF: In high school, I dreamed of becoming an engineer; I had no idea what that meant then but was encouraged to do so based on my math and science aptitude. It took me some time to afford college, and by the time I enrolled full time (24), I had decided that perhaps a business degree would be better. Fortunately, the Dean of Engineering (Texas A&M University at Galveston) spoke with me after my first semester and encouraged me to join the engineering program and the rest, as they say, is history.

H2T: What are the advantages/challenges of being an engineer?

PF: My answer to this question has evolved throughout my career. When I was a young engineer, the challenges sometimes seemed more numerous than the advantages, as I was working hard to grow and learn, stay true to myself and raise a family while simultaneously facing the roadblocks that every female faces in a male-dominated industry. In this season of my life and career, I am focused on the advantages, especially those I bring to my role: perseverance, patience, intuition, care of people, focus on execution and delivery, business acumen, confidence, curiosity, humility and servant leadership.

H2T: Is enough being done to promote/encourage women in engineering?

PF: We can always do more to promote women in engineering; part of that is encouraging and supporting them during their careers and understanding that women may need to exit the workforce occasionally for family reasons and encouraging them throughout, enabling an entry back into the workplace when they are ready. Empowering women to be confident in who they are and their capabilities, being unafraid to ask for what is best for them and their families and encouraging them by being their greatest advocates.

H2T: What has been your biggest win throughout your time at Kent?

PF: I recently joined Kent in September of last year (2022), and I think it is too soon to reflect on a win. However, I take my position as an Operational Leader very seriously and feel a great responsibility to excel in every way possible so that I can help pave the way for other women in the industry who strive for a seat at the table. Kent has been very welcoming and supportive and is open to conversation and reflection on how to support me in my role.

H2T: What does this year's ‘Make Safety Seen’ theme mean to you as an engineer?

PF: Safety is priority number one in this industry and has been, as it should be, for decades. However, safety only really works if it works for everyone. In this industry in particular, there is still progress to be made to ensure that safety is fully inclusive—be that safety workwear that fits people of all shapes and sizes or safety signage that works for people with color vision deficiency. Engineering is about making the world a better and, ultimately, safer place. The more diverse the engineering community, the more our environments will be designed to keep everyone safe and secure.H2T

About the author

PAULA FITZPATRICK has covered many different engineering sectors, including subsea, offshore, midstream and energy transition, with more than 25 yr in the oil and gas industry. Fitzpatrick is as passionate about world-class project delivery to clients as she is about mentoring and developing the next generation of engineers.

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