Leanne engi­neers a Golden

With the North Sea top­ping the global in­dus­try with women lead­er­ship, En­ergy’ s new se­ries high­lights those forg­ing the path ahead for the sec­tor En­ergy

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen) - - ENERGY -

De­spite be­ing only 20 years old, Leanne Brown doesn’t seem like the type of per­son who gets fazed all that of­ten.

While she’s cer­tainly sur­prised to have won the Ap­pren­tice Award at this year’s Press and Journal Gold Awards, there’s also a quiet con­fi­dence danc­ing some­where in the back­ground – the idea that, if it was go­ing to be some­one, why shouldn’t it be her?

On the night she picked up her award she even sug­gested as much. Her win­ner’s state­ment not just ac­knowl­edg­ing her own right to be there, but also serv­ing as a bat­tle cry to all women who want to work in oil and gas.

“It is not a male dom­i­nated sec­tor any more,” she said. “Women are fight­ing back.” At the age of 14, af­ter par­tic­i­pat­ing in an en­gi­neer­ing team build­ing event dur­ing the school day, Leanne came home and told her mum that she wanted to be­come an en­gi­neer. Two years later she would pick her sub­jects around achiev­ing that ob­jec­tive.

Now a fully qual­i­fied hy­draulics tech­ni­cian at en­gi­neer­ing firm Spar­rows in Aberdeen, she’s never let her gen­der stand in the way of her dream, yet of­ten oth­ers haven’t got the memo.

“When I was at col­lege a lot of peo­ple would look at me and say, ‘Why are you do­ing that? Why are you go­ing into en­gi­neer­ing?’

“As if I should be do­ing beauty [ther­apy] or the ad­min side of things. I was the only girl in the class. No other girls were even in­ter­ested. Peo­ple thought I was weird.”

Yet she soon si­lenced her de­trac­tors.

“Work­ing in this en­vi­ron­ment where it is mostly men, I’m not dis­crim­i­nated against in any way be­cause I’m a girl.

“I’m not treated any dif­fer­ently, at all. They’ve put to­gether a re­ally good team here,” she said.

“I think a lot of the younger girls who’re try­ing to get into the in­dus­try feel that they’d be treated dif­fer­ently and you’re not.

“There’s a mas­sive op­por­tu­nity in the oil and gas in­dus­try for women.”

Leanne feels a strong sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity when it comes to dis­pelling myths about the oil and gas sec­tor with the aim of at­tract­ing greater di­ver­sity into the work­force.

Leanne said: “If young girls were think­ing about this type of ca­reer I would tell them to ‘go for it, grab it with both hands’. There’s a lot of stereo­typ­i­cal ‘oh it’s a man’s job’. “It’s not.” A young woman of the north­east through and through, Leanne’s forth­right de­meanour is per­haps due, in part, to her fam­ily’s farm­ing back­ground where there are no par­tic­u­lar male and fe­male jobs – if you can be use­ful on a farm you’re quickly put to good use.

Most days at Spar­rows she can be found set­ting valves, flush­ing cylin­ders, tak­ing pres­sure tests or strip­ping and re­fur­bish­ing mo­tors.

“When I came in I was re­ally ner­vous be­cause I didn’t know any­one but I’ve been here three years now, and the peo­ple I work with, you could pretty much say any­thing to them.

“Ob­vi­ously you have your dis­agree­ments some­times but within five min­utes you’re laugh­ing and jok­ing about some­thing.

“When I’m speak­ing to all of them through there [in the ware­house] and hav­ing a laugh about what hap­pened at the week­end or what­ever, I don’t nec­es­sar­ily think that I’m speak­ing to a load of men now. They’re more friends than work col­leagues.”

When asked what the fu­ture might hold she isn’t think­ing any fur­ther ahead than get­ting off­shore.

Leanne is de­ter­mined to travel the world to “go ev­ery­where.”

Yet she also knows she’s not fin­ished here just yet. She’s still got two years of her HND in Me­chan­i­cal En­gi­neer­ing to com­plete.

Though clearly de­lighted, she views win­ning the Ap­pren­tice Award for what it is, ev­i­dence that she made the cor­rect ca­reer choice and that all her strug­gle and ef­fort was worth it.

“I’ve worked hard and off,” she said.

“I re­ally, re­ally wanted it; I’d never won any­thing be­fore. I still can’t be­lieve it.”

Too of­ten peo­ple see lit­tle re­ward for their ef­forts, no phys­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of their tough de­ci­sions and hard graft.

Leanne Brown is merely at the be­gin­ning of her ca­reer; and if this is the start, what’s the end go­ing to look like? it’s paid

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