Womens Engineering Society: Inspiring women as engineers, scientists and technical leaders

Role Models

Dervilla Mitchell

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Dervilla Mitchell

Awards: CBI/Real Business First Women Awards 2007; Women of Outstanding Achievement Award 2011; FREng


Dervilla helped establish, and is active in, Arup’s women’s network, ConnectWomen, leading the team which researched and shaped proposals for mentoring. Her example of raising a family whilst working with a high level of responsibility is widely respected and she is much in demand as a mentor of both women and men, taking great satisfaction in their career development. She is also a founding member of Arup’s Diversity Steering Group which aims is to create a work environment based on fairness, respect and merit, and is championing Arup’s Inclusive Leadership Programme: an initiative that addresses unconscious bias and helps deliver a more diverse organisation.

Dervilla is passionate about encouraging women into SET professions and has been involved in running careers evenings in schools. She recently headed Arup’s first female undergraduate open day, dedicating time to share her advice and experience with the undergraduates.

In 2009, Dervilla was identified as one of the 90 most inspiring women by the Women’s Engineering Society and gave the key note address at their ‘Shaping the Future’ event. In 2011, Dervilla won the Women of Outstanding Achievement Awards for Inspiration and Leadership.

Dervilla believes that qualities such as empathy and compassion are fundamental to effective project management and inspiring team leadership.

What’s your biggest achievement to date?
I am very proud of my projects in particular Portcullis House, Westminster (really technically difficult) and T5 Heathrow (scale and level of personal responsibility) but my biggest achievement has to be my children who together with my husband have accepted and supported me in my career.

What is the best thing about working in SET?
I have been working for 30 years and I still look forward to going to work most days. I have been very lucky to have had a challenging career with lots of variety. Working in building engineering I have very tangible products to show for my endeavours and I take great delight from seeing the finished buildings in use.

What would your advice be to other women thinking of starting a career in SET?
Be yourself and build a strong technical foundation before you pursue wider opportunities. There is a very wide range of disciplines and possible careers so look around you and find the area which suits your interests and where you will enjoy the work.

What would your advice be to SET employers for attracting women into SET sectors?
In order to attract women employers need to provide a flexible working environment where there is equal opportunity for women to advance to the highest level. This is not just about looking after women: increasingly both men and women seek flexibility in order to balance their work and home life commitments.

How valuable do you think the UKRC is as a resource for women in SET?

The UKRC provides lots of valuable information for women; the challenge is making sure the women know where to look.

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