Skip to content

Make Safety Seen: OPITO scholars celebrate International Women in Engineering Day

As a sponsor of International Women in Engineering Day, OPITO is celebrating the amazing work of female engineers around the world to accelerate and deliver the energy transition.

To mark this year’s theme, Make Safety Seen, we’re profiling two Piper Alpha Memorial Safety Scholars. This scholarship was created to provide a legacy for the victims of the Piper Alpha tragedy, ensuring those who are supporting the industry’s evolution understand the need for the highest levels of safety at all times.

The scholarship is open to all postgraduate students undertaking MSc studies relevant to the oil, gas and new energy industries at the University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University in Scotland.

“There are no barriers if we continue to push them.”

Kirstin MacKay, Health & Safety Superintendent at Crescent Petroleum

“I started my career as a nurse in the Public Health sector in Australia then the NHS in the UK and now I’m a Health & Safety Superintendent for a global operator at an onshore plant in Iraqi Kurdistan. My career journey shows there are no barriers if we continue to push them!

After spending time as an offshore medic in the North Sea, I studied an MSc in Health, Safety & Risk Management at Robert Gordon University as part of the OPITO Piper Alpha Memorial Scholarship.

The support from the scholarship helped set me up on a pathway to success. The financial backing allowed me to focus entirely on my studies and take advantage of the networking opportunities offered. By pursuing a career in health and safety, I’ve been able to honour the learnings from the Piper Alpha disaster and ensure I put them into practice in my work every day.

We’re in a pivotal moment in history where we’re seeing the transition from traditional oil and gas to new energies and, with that, comes a need for new mindsets, new ideas and new innovations to pave the way forward. If we alter our minds from the preconceived ideas of what women bring to the workforce, we can really recognise the amazing contribution women can make to support this energy transition.

When I first worked offshore, I tended to be joined by only one or two other females and they usually worked in catering. I carried that preconceived idea of women in engineering into my current role and move to Iraqi Kurdistan, expecting to be outnumbered. I could not have been more wrong! Female recruitment and further education are really advanced here, and I’m delighted to be surrounded by female mechanics, instrument technicians, engineers…the list is endless!

To me, women bring an emotional intelligence to the workforce – with the ability to read verbal and non-verbal communications. We mustn’t underestimate how important those soft skills are. We have the power to influence and change our compass if we believe in ourselves and don’t get fearful of new opportunities!”

“It’s vital for women entering safety engineering to have female role models.”

Esme Fowler, Safety Engineer at ALSTOM Engineering & Services

“Previously studying Civil Engineering as an undergraduate, I secured a place on the OPITO Piper Alpha Memorial Scholarship which supported me throughout my MSc in Safety & Reliability Engineering. My studies, combined with the learnings from Piper Alpha, motivated me to pursue a career in safety and I’m now a Safety Engineer for ALSTOM.

Fundamentally, being part of the Scholarship gave me the drive to do well and progress a career path in safety. The networking events in particular supported my ambitions as I met relevant professionals at industry events and this really helped me gain confidence.

Safety is essential in any workplace so it’s vital for women entering a career in safety engineering to have female role models. This helps to solidify their inspiration to follow this particular path, exemplifying experiences similar to their own and offering them a career roadmap they can relate to.

Diversity of mindset is essential, so the more women recruited to support the energy transition, the more problem solving capabilities available. Never think that what sets you apart as a woman is a hindrance when it comes to safety engineering. Be inquisitive, be bold, don’t refrain from asking questions and, most importantly, believe in your own abilities!”

Promising figures from across its operating regions show that, as of 2021, 16.8% of those working in engineering are female which is double 2010. In America, in 2020, 37.8% of STEM degrees were awarded to women. These stats highlight progress is being made to create an inclusive engineering industry, but more must continue to be done.

By helping to create a diverse workforce, OPITO is unlocking new perspectives which drive innovation, problem-solving and collaboration.