Meet Claire Dempsey, senior engineer

Claire is a senior engineer with more than 10 years’ industry experience, encompassing road drainage for design and build and PPP schemes, turn key contracts and small urban road schemes. 

She joined Roughan & O’Donovan in 2011 and, following a period away to raise a family, she re-joined the company in 2017.  

Claire is currently involved in the tender design for the A6 Dungiven to Drumahoe scheme in Northern Ireland.

What inspired you to become an engineer?

I loved maths, physics and accountancy subjects at school and, as a student, was fortunate to visit Laois County Council’s road design offices while they were in the very early stages of the planning and design for the Portlaoise by-pass.

I met their Senior Engineer, Mary White, who explained her role within the local authority and showed me the huge drawing sheets showing the cut and fill profiles for the scheme. I was hooked.

What do you enjoy most about your job as an engineer?

I enjoy being involved in infrastructure projects, working with the tools of the trade, such as mapping, drawings and computational programmes, and playing a role in creating something that will benefit society and the environment.

Engineering is a profession that never sits still; there are constantly new developments in the industry, new projects and new challenges.

What are the most common misconceptions about your job and what can be done to change them?

I went to an all-girls secondary school and, at the time, most of my contemporaries thought engineering was mainly about fixing car engines.

However, with the construction of our motorway infrastructure, the design of our iconic bridges, and other high-profile water and buildings projects, there is now a greater public awareness of what civil engineering involves.

There has also been a major shift in environmental awareness and in the uptake of new sustainable and renewable technologies, which are so important in the engineering sphere.

On a personal level, it has been wonderful to see my own children, as pre-schoolers, join in the Engineers Week “Build it” workshops in Imaginosity Children’s Museum and get involved in Maths and Science Week in primary school.

How can employers attract women back into the industry following a period away to raise a family?

Employers should introduce a 'Welcome Policy' aimed specifically at women who have taken a mid-career break but are keen to return to their profession.

Additional incentives worth considering include part-time roles, flexible working hours and a ‘Returners Placement Programme’ focused on retraining and rebuilding the confidence of returners.

Roughan & O’Donovan has introduced progressive polices and incentives, such as maternity packages, flexible paternity and parental leave policies, all of which make it easier to balance work-life commitments, not just for female engineers but for all engineers!

What needs to be done to enable more women to advance into management level positions in engineering companies?

To achieve better gender balance at a managerial level, engineering companies need to:

  • Develop broad retention strategies for female engineers
  • Offer mentorship and guidance to women as they prepare for management positions
  • Give young female engineers the opportunity to meet clients and form networks within the industry