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Home » STEM » Diverse careers with ‘ingenuity’ that are powering the UK energy transition

Hilary Buxton

Director of Engineering, Cadent

The UK gas sector is on the front line of the energy transition. As a result, it’s more diverse than ever, offering a range of exciting career opportunities to men and women.

When Hilary Buxton started her engineering career, the gas industry looked very different. However, that was in 1986 when the engineering stereotype was all oily rags and overalls.

Today, Buxton is now Director of Engineering at Cadent, the UK’s largest Gas Distribution Network, which she calls ‘an invisible haulage company,’ where the ‘cargo’ it transports through its thousands of miles of pipework, is heating millions of homes and powering vital businesses.

Diverse careers supporting the energy transition

“The UK gas sector has changed so much,” she says. “We’re on the front line of the energy transition, so our expertise must be wide-ranging. We now need engineers from both traditional and emerging disciplines: gas, mechanical, civil, electrical, control, instrumentation, materials and more recently data, digitalisation and AI.”

It’s about creating an environment where women
can thrive with, for example, flexible working
arrangements that are available to all.

Despite increasing interest from women, outdated perceptions persist about the sector, so Buxton is keen to bust some myths. “As a community of engineers — and this hasn’t changed — we use our ingenuity to solve problems and find new ways of doing things,” she says.

“After all, ingenuity is the root Latin word for ‘engineering.’ So, I find it frustrating when I go into schools to talk to girls and young women about our creativity and they look at me blankly because they don’t see the industry as a creative environment — but it absolutely is.”

Creating an environment where women can thrive

Today, it’s no longer a male-dominated space. “More than 30 of the 100 engineers in my team are women, and we’ve seen a 30% increase in female applications to our ‘future engineering’ programme,” she says. “That’s pretty amazing! The fact that a woman is the Director of Engineering helps set the right tone. Moreover, it’s about creating an environment where women can thrive with, for example, flexible working arrangements that are available to all.”

It’s necessary to make exciting opportunities available to all, no matter your starting point. “I know a number of women who began with the company as administrators but then caught the engineering bug,” reveals Buxton. “We’ve supported them to achieve the training and qualifications they need to transition into engineering roles.”

It’s a sector and career she would recommend to anyone, male or female. “I love solving seemingly intractable problems,” she says. “Part of the satisfaction of this job is that there is always a new challenge to take on.”

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