International Women’s Day: Q&A with Louise Boccaccini BSC CEng MIGEM
This year, the International Women’s Day theme is ‘Press for Progress’, buoyed by the current strong global momentum for women’s equality. Now, more than ever, it’s important for communities and industries worldwide to promote gender inclusivity and strive for gender parity.
At the moment, the UK gas industry is imbalanced when it comes to the representation of women, particularly in STEM sector roles. We recognise that as a whole, the industry needs to worker harder to encourage women to pursue technical careers by providing more opportunities, mentoring schemes and role models.
One such role model is Squire Energy’s very own Louise Boccaccini, a Senior Project Manager with over 40 years in the industry. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’ve interviewed Louise to find out how she started her career.
How did you get into your role?
I’ve always loved science and studied it at A-Level and after I finished school, I knew that I wanted to be an Engineer. That requires a degree, so I approached North Thames Gas, as it was called back then, who sponsored me to do 4-year ‘sandwich’ course in Mechanical Engineering. I did 6 months at university and 6 months in the industry – it was a way to get a degree and experience – and I ended up staying there for 19 years.
How would you encourage more women to pursue a career in the industry?
There needs to be more done to breakdown the stereotyping of careers into ‘boy’s jobs’ and ‘girl’s jobs’, and this needs to be done before school, right at the beginning. We need to raise awareness that the gas industry is one of the better industries when it comes to the diversity of career options, and highlight the benefits that a job in the STEM industries can offer. There’s a misconception that the only jobs are ‘manual’ jobs, like being a gas engineer and that’s not the case – you can be a designer, a project manager, a scientist, a surveyor! The opportunities are there, they just need to be taken.
This year, for the first time, the President of the Institution of Gas Engineers and Manager is a Woman, so the sky is the limit.
The energy industry is largely male-dominated – why do you think that is?
It’s tricky to pinpoint it to just one reason, but I think that girls could be more strongly encouraged from a younger age to go down the energy and engineering route by their parents, their siblings and their teachers. Friends are a huge influence too, especially at a young age.
What’s your biggest achievement in your career?
When I was the Technical Manager at GTC, I was integral in getting the company accredited as one of the first six Gas Industry Registered Scheme (GIRS) companies in the UK, which I am very proud of. After eight years at Squire Energy, my biggest achievement has been helping it to get full GIRS accreditation for design, audit, construction and non-routine connections this allows us to make live gas connections onto the network.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
That no two days are the same. I love the variety – I can be in the office or on-site depending on my schedule, which means I do have to plan ahead if I can – but I just go wherever I’m needed! I have to be adaptable.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Take a deep breath and count to 10 – I’m the sort of person to just jump in with two feet. In hindsight, I might’ve done things slightly different if I’d taken a step back and thought about things a little more when I was younger, but ultimately, all my decisions have led to me to where I am today, so I did a few things right!
Who is your biggest role model?
I have two. One is my Dad – I’ve always admired him, his work ethic and he’s always supported me and been there for me. The second is Da Vinci – he was such a brilliant man, both a scientist and an artist and a master of all crafts. He was the inventor of so many things and discovered so much way before anybody else – the helicopter, the vascular -pulmonary system of the body.
Where would you like to see the gas industry in five years’ time?
Without question, I’d like to see more women in the gas industry, being encouraged and mentored to take up more technical roles, with employers tapping into the talents and potential of women, and having their talent and potential more widely recognised by employers.
As for the gas industry itself, it’d be great to see hydrogen more widely used as a fuel resource. It’s environmentally friendly as it does not produce carbon dioxide and is one of the up-and-coming energy resources – it just needs a bit more investment and development in the next few years.