Thursday 17 October 2019

Katherine sending the call out to female engineers

Newmarket native, Katherine Walshe is Head of Asset Operations at Irish Water

Newmarket native, Katherine Walshe, Head of Asset Operations in Irish Water. Photo: Naoise Culhane
Newmarket native, Katherine Walshe, Head of Asset Operations in Irish Water. Photo: Naoise Culhane

Maria Herlihy

A Newmarket native who is one of Irish Water's leading engineers wants to inspire girls and young women to consider a career in engineering.

Katherine Walshe is Head of Asset Operations at Irish Water, and a member of their senior management team. She is a UCC Civil Engineering graduate. 

Katherine wanted to mark International Women's Day last Friday, which coincidentally also fell during Engineers Week and she highlighted that only 13 per cent of engineering graduates in 2017-2018 were in the country were women. 

"In Irish Water we are committed to gender equality as 50 per cent of our senior management team is female, which is why we want to inspire girls and young women to explore engineering career paths, particularly within the water sector," she said. 

Throughout Engineers Week, Irish Water showcased female engineers, like Katherine, who are at various stages of their careers and who are working in different engineering roles within the sector.

Irish Water is also promoting engineering as a career for girls through a programme of school visits, site tours and career talks during the week. Speaking about the strong history of Irish female engineers, Katherine said: "Before I started to study engineering, I didn't realise that so few women had worked in the profession over the decades". 

"I took for granted the work done in previous generations by people like Alice Perry from Galway who graduated in 1902 and was Europe's first female engineering graduate," she continued. 

"I was privileged to meet Catherine E. Walshe, who is no relation to me, and who was the first female engineer to be employed by the Office of Public Works and in the Dublin and Cork Local Authorities. She graduated as a Civil Engineer from UCC in 1949," she added.

Katherine's varied career includes water, roads, housing and environment related works, as well as organisational development and enterprise. She was also the first female engineer in Kerry County Council. 

Her advice for girls leaving school: "If you like the subjects that are beneficial for becoming an engineer, like maths and chemistry, don't hesitate to go for what is a fulfilling and varied career with many options. " 

Regarding her own work, she said that she loves that no two days are the same.  And just what does her job entail? 

"Well, I oversee the national delivery of water and wastewater services to homes and businesses across Ireland.  We process 1.7 billion litres of treated drinking water and treat 1.6 billion litres of wastewater while managing 95,000km of pipes under the ground. The size and scale of the delivery of water services is vast and I am enormously proud of the work we do."