IWD 2022: Moderate seas for women working offshore

2 min read

A slow but steady increase in the number of women working offshore is a reason for optimism, but such careers are seen as stereotypically male and this need to be challenged, says Joelle Way, Geotechnical Engineer at Fugro.

As a child I was always fascinated by the world we live in - the physical, biological, and chemical processes that have outlived us all and will continue to evolve on this everchanging planet we call home. I was most interested in documentaries about outer space and nature, which led me to explore the field that I now know as Geology.

I first studied the subject at A-level where my passion grew even further, and I knew this was something I could take forward as a career. My interest in the subject steered me towards completing a Bachelor of Science Geology degree at Royal Holloway, University of London followed by a Master of Science degree in Petroleum Geoscience.

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After university, I secured a job as a GIS Technician within a local engineering company, where I was involved in mapping out features from satellite imagery working under a government led contract. The experience I gained in this role, alongside the support of my degrees, became a vital stepping-stone to my current role as a Geotechnical Engineer at Fugro.

My career to date has been so rewarding and diverse, in my four years working in the organisation I have had the opportunity to work across a wide variety of disciplines and really hone my skills as a Geo-Engineer. I started off as a Field and Laboratory Geotechnical Engineer and have since spent time both on and off drilling and survey vessels, as well as leading teams in offshore and onshore laboratory projects. The laboratory work included testing soils and rock to an international standard using various geotechnical techniques and testing methods. This helps us understand soil properties to ensure offshore assets, such as wind farms, have a strong foundation – a critical step in our energy transition.

As part of my role, I have been lucky enough to travel around Europe and Africa visiting parts of the world I never thought I’d see. Spending time offshore in Nigeria and Cameroon, working under 24-hour daylight during the summer season in the Barents Sea, and sailing through the outstanding beauty of the Norwegian Fjords.

women working offshore
(Image: Fugro)

One of the best parts of working offshore is meeting such diverse people from across the globe.  Having a mixture of people on a vessel for four-to-six weeks at a time, working towards the same end goal, is incredibly rewarding. You engage with people you probably wouldn’t meet onshore.

At the beginning of my career, I was more often than not the only woman working on the offshore drilling vessels and on rare occasions I would be joined by one other woman. On a personal level, this didn’t hold me back, however this is something that needs consistent improvement industry wide. Increased diversity within any workforce results in an increase in innovation, which is essential in engineering.

Over the past four years, I have seen a slow but steady increase in the number of women working offshore and an over-all increase of women working in the industry. This is great to see, and I know I will continue to witness this growth throughout my career. One of the main challenges that still exist is that careers like mine are seen as stereotypically male. I’m striving to be a role model within the engineering sector to make sure that more women know this is a possibility for them too. Careers in engineering, and tech more generally, vary greatly and there are roles that suit all sorts of people and skill sets – and if you’re passionate, there’s definitely a career for you!

I am proud that I have been given the opportunity to work towards the development of the UK and Europe’s largest renewable offshore wind farms, building a better future for us and the planet we live on. It is especially great to see a surge in renewable energy clients as the industry shifts towards more sustainable energy solutions.

Joelle Way, Geotechnical Engineer at Fugro