1 March, 2022
Civil engineer breaking the bias in sector
STARTING off in civil engineering and working her way up the corporate ladder, Glenda Kirk has challenged gender stereotypes and succeeded in the role as Director of Infrastructure Services at Mareeba Shire Council.
Dimbulah-born and bred, Ms Kirk took on the role of in 2017 – the only woman to ever take up this role in council’s history. Her story begins in Cairns, where she started from the bottom and worked alongside a majority of male mentors and colleagues.
“I commenced my career in project management in the private sector of a civil construction company in Cairns and then moved to Western Australia where I worked in very large mining and civil projects,” she said.
“I returned back to Queensland in 2009 and then in 2010, I started my role in Local Government for Cassowary Coast Regional Council and delivered some major projects for them in their operations area.
“I took on the role with Mareeba Shire Council in 2016 to manage some major projects for them such as the wastewater treatment plant and the airport upgrade and, in 2017, I was offered the position of Director of Infrastructure Services and have been doing that ever since.”
Being a woman in her male-dominated sector, Ms Kirk found herself working hard and looking up to many male colleagues for their advice and expertise, describing herself as fortunate to have such a supportive workplace.
Over the years, she has also found a small community of women across the country in the same roles as her, working for not only local government, but for state and federal governments.
Ms Kirk believes the misconception of her profession being a “male job” is untrue, because the position requires an element of “caregiving” to the community.
“There is a misconception that engineering or roles in infrastructure should be ‘male dominated’ obviously because we are doing things with civil construction and the equipment, but what we are doing is building a better life and community, so we are in a caregiver role also,” she said.
“We are responsible for providing safe drinking water for the community and making sure their wastewater and general waste is dealt with properly.
“They have safe roads and parks to play in because of civil engineering and infrastructure teams and women add a huge amount of value to that caregiving role from lived experiences.”
Unfortunately, because there is a stereotype attached to the role, this had affected the number of women seeking to enter the field.
Her advice to women, both young and old, wanting to enter the sector is to not let their own barriers get in the way of succeeding.
“I think as women, we are our own worst critics, and we tend to put barriers in front of ourselves,” Ms Kirk said.
“I think the stereotype in my industry where it is seen as male dominated is a setback, and while there is a lot of maths and science underpinning in a role like engineering, it’s really all about the outcomes that come out of the job and that’s what I love about my role.
“But my message is to give it a go, seek out people who can support you and there’s a lot of people who want to support you and that it can be a very rewarding career.”