Women in Engineering – Alison Fearns, BFS Project Manager

by | July 25th 2023 | Case Studies

Barnsley Facilities Services Project Manager Alison Fearns. We think Alison’s detailed career and education history is fascinating, and it’s interesting to see the challenges she has faced because of her determination to break gender disparity in the field.

  • 1983- 1986 BA Hons in Architecture (RIBA part 1) – at University College London – there were 26 people on the course of which only 4 were women.
  • 1987-1989 Dip Arch Hons in Architecture (RIBA Part 2) – at University College London – there were 16 people on the course of which only 4 were women.
  • 1990 – RIBA Part 3 University of Greenwich about 10 people on the course (40/60 gender split)
  • 1994 – Diploma in Fire Safety Engineering Leeds College of Building – the only woman on the course
  • 1998-2000 Post Graduate Diploma in Management Studies (DMS) – Sheffield Hallam University (50/50 gender split)
  • 2001-2002 Direct Membership Examination for the Chartered Institute of Building (MCIOB) – I was the only women on the course and, much to my satisfaction, got the highest scores
  • 2003 PRINCE 2 Foundation and Practitioner Level in Project Management – (50/50 gender split)

“When I was in the lower 6th form in 1981 and I asked if I could do technical drawing because I wanted to be an Architect, the director of 6th Form studies said, “That’s ridiculous. It’s a man’s job and you should be looking to do a woman’s job like nursing or teaching.” My brother who was in the upper 6th form and had heard about this, and came home furious because I’d ‘shown him up’.

“I persevered (with the support of my parents) in pursuing my dream and in 1990 qualified. Architecture is a very long course – 7 years in total and involves 5 years in full time higher education, a sandwich year with homework between the BA Hons and MA Hons and doing a part time post graduate course to gain the RIBA part 3 which is the professional qualification. We study architectural, environmental and Urban design and also Structural, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering as well as Building Economics, Construction, Planning, Law and Materials Science.

“What can I say about my experience, (i) Follow your dreams and aim for the Moon, because if you miss at least you’ll hit a star and (ii) Trust your own instincts.

“I was great fun learning, working and living in London from 1983 to 1992. Women were definitely in a minority in Architecture and Construction and looking back it’s fair to say that I don’t think I ever suffered any direct discrimination. Most of the chaps thought a woman in the job was novel. My mother thought the gender imbalance was advantageous because she thought I had a higher chance of meeting Mr Right, and I did eventually meet my Mr Right on the Job.

“In terms of work, I worked hard and was able to prove myself and gain acceptance in a predominantly male dominated industry.”