ENGINEERING STORIES – RAE CHASE

Our Graduate in Security Risk Management, Rae Chase discusses how open mindsets, awareness, and diverse role models can inspire youth to grow up with diversity being the norm… 

Who are you and what is your role?

My name is Rae Chase and I’m a Graduate in Security Risk Management at WSP in the Middle East.

Tell us about your engineering journey?  

I initially graduated in forensic science, but I found that forensics as a career is quite limiting. When I began looking into other careers I could go into, I wanted to utilize the skills that I had, that I liked, and that I learned in my course. Despite trying a few different jobs and industries nothing really felt right.

But, just by chance, I was talking to a friend of a friend who mentioned security consultancy. He was working with security firm in Dubai and I managed to land an internship with them. I would say I had transferable skills for it, but I had to learn very quickly and work really hard to prove that I could work in security, even though I had very little training in it. Following that, I was offered a full-time position and I stayed there for just over a year before recently moving to join WSP!

Have you experienced any barriers as a female in the industry and how did you overcome these?

I feel like a lot of my barriers have been not just as a female, but also because I’m very young looking. Most barriers I’ve encountered have been a mix of age discrimination as well as gender and I’ve had to work a lot harder to be taken seriously.

And, and I've had meetings when I've walked in and people have instantly said things like, ‘Are you here to take notes?’ or ‘I'll have a coffee, thank you’. At times, I've also been commented on not for my work, but on how I look. It's very condescending.

Despite this, I think I've had a lot of support from my colleagues. Whenever I have been in those situations, I've had great colleagues who either put them in their place or instantly shut down the attitude towards me. And then they’ve spoken to me afterwards to let me know how I can assert myself a bit better. The biggest piece of advice I got from one colleague was when I walk into a meeting room, don't let them assume. So just go straight in with a super firm handshake and be like, ‘I'm your security risk manager’. I would say it can be very daunting, especially when you're in a very male dominated world, but it's nice to have fellow males that look out for you. I understand that girls want to be there for girls and everything but it’s when a male doesn't take a female seriously that it can be hard for females to stand up for a female. Whereas it's very easy for a male to shutdown a male.

Although it has been a bit of an uphill battle sometimes, I’m grateful for having a good support system, good friends who stand behind me, and a family – every little bit helps. It's nice to have people who are always pushing you to persevere and do your best and prove your worth. 

What achievements are you most proud of as an engineer?

I’m proud of all of the projects I've completed or helped with so far. It amazes me that we can go from working on such small, boutique hotels or smaller projects and the next day we seamlessly shift on to mega projects. I like that we can have such an input into security to help Clients and people have a safer presence. Every project I do, I'm proud of it and if we're keeping people safe, I'm even happier.

How do we hold ourselves accountable as an industry when it comes to Gender Balance & Diversity?

I think a lot of it comes down to educating and kind of forcing a more open mindset. Engineering is often related to being a male dominated sphere. But if we have more diverse role models, we can inspire youth to grow up with diversity being the norm. This will help phases out the prejudice.

Larger companies have a bigger platform to set the model for diversity. This makes it less taboo for smaller companies to adopt. If the larger ones really put into place that they want more gender diversity, ethnic diversity, disability acts and all that then it doesn't seem so taboo for the smaller companies to replicate this way of thinking.

With the way the world is going now, and as people educate themselves more, all industries are going to be celebrating diversity.

I'm hoping that by the time I come to retiring, all industries are going to be environments where you're judged solely on your capabilities and your attitudes instead of your appearances, your backgrounds, and things you just can't control like your biology.

What would you like to share with the next generation of females entering a STEM career?

I would suggest they do what they want to do, stay true to themselves. You don’t have to follow the norms and let stereotypes hold you back. Have a good support system, surround yourself with people who want to succeed and want to help you succeed, and keep doing you. You'll get there eventually.