International Women in Engineering Day 2021: Maria di Leo


Maria di Leo is a Technical Director in our Coasts and Oceans Group. She is a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

My job is quite wide-ranging. It spans from winning work to delivering it, and everything in between. Some of my time goes to reading bid documents and preparing proposals, some to reviewing/writing technical reports. A good portion of my time is also devoted to gathering intelligence on trends in the coastal sector, new opportunities and development needs.

The best thing about my work is the variety; I am a curious person and my job gives me the opportunity to use it to learn, explore, research. The great thing about having colleagues who are world experts in their fields is that I can tap into a wealth of knowledge.

My first engineering hero was my dad. He was a civil engineer and as a child I remember being fascinated by his drawings on tracing paper and those in the many books he had in his home office. That’s what made me want to pursue a career in engineering. Another hero of mine is an amazing female engineer at Arup who has used her professional skills as a structural engineer and her passion for solving the world’s problems to build an incredible career in International Development, something I am particularly passionate about.

I think INWED is really important. A lot of girls may see themselves as scientists but not necessarily engineers, so raising awareness of the diversity of career opportunities available is vital.

I think it’s great that we celebrate the role of women engineering. We need to do everything that we can to encourage and develop future generations of female engineers so events like INWED are very important. Things have really changed since I started on my Civil Engineering Degree course in Italy 30 years ago: at that time there were just 12 female engineering students out of 250. We do still have a way to go; you do need determination and persistence, but things have improved. Here at HR Wallingford we have some great women in senior positions so that’s definitely a step in the right direction.

For any young woman or girl thinking about a career in engineering, I’d say if you are thrilled about the idea of solving problems and actually seeing the results achieved through you work, do it!

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