Women In Engineering – Jenny Barnes, Kelvin Power

Meet Jenny Barnes, Head of Project Management and Procurement Services from Kelvin Power. Jenny heads up a project management team who ensures the production of onshore substation structures and looks after the procurement and quality processes.

Can you share your journey and what inspired you to pursue a career in the engineering industry? 

I fell into engineering after getting a job at a refrigeration engineering company many years ago when I was recommended to them by a previous colleague. From there, I learnt about procurement and project management in smaller projects, leading to bigger projects along the way. I have always enjoyed the variety of work and each project can be very different to the next. I like challenging work and variety as it keeps me interested. 

What are some of the barriers you’ve faced, and how have you overcome them? 

One of the main barriers I have faced when entering the Engineering sector was how male dominated it is and how I am perceived as a woman. It took a long time to convince certain industry members I was not a ‘typist’ and had expertise and didn’t just ‘make the tea’. It was like starting again in a way and proving the abilities I had gained over my career. I have also had comments made to me by individuals about how I look and how that affects my abilities – it can be very frustrating. However, I’d like to think the proof is in the pudding and if someone tells me I can’t do something, I will show them I can and how well I can do it. 

How can we encourage more young girls to consider engineering as a career? 

I think by adverts directed at women. In schools, word of mouth, local charity work etc. Getting the word out that this is an open house, and we welcome every person, regardless of gender or any other defining feature. 

What changes would you like to see in the engineering industry to make it more inclusive for women? 

I would like to see more female leaders. I think the more female leaders we have, the easier it is for other women to follow and feel like they too can achieve that. That they are in an environment which welcomes everyone. 

How has mentorship played a role in your professional development? 

I am currently in the process of being appointed an official mentor. I think any help and advice from someone you respect within the business can really be pivotal in your growth. I have been lucky enough to have lots of unofficial mentors along the way and support from colleagues to help my growth, which I am forever grateful for. 

How has your business unit supported and empowered you to reach your full potential? 

My Business Unit has supported me through diplomas and given me the opportunity to move up the ranks competitively and fairly when positions became available. I am always encouraged to keep climbing, learning and, just as importantly, enjoying what I do. 

VINCI Energies UK & RoI launched an all-female programme called Elevate, can you tell us about your experience on the program? 

I think VINCI Energies is very supportive of women and the ‘Elevate’ programme I am part of now is a huge step towards making women feel more comfortable in a male heavy environment. The programme is helping us to find our voice and implement tools to help us achieve our goals and be the best version of ourselves, confidently. It really helps you stand back and look at who you are, your strengths and how you can use them. The programme has enabled me to look outside my Business Unit and identify and meet other women in the group, all of us facing different challenges but all of us holding each other’s hand. It is a safe space to talk openly and share ideas, be vulnerable and learn from each other. 

What advice would you give to women entering the engineering field today? 

I would say that no matter what your strengths or interests are, there is a place for you in Engineering and associated roles. You can be whatever you want to be in life if you are willing to do the work to get there. I’d say VINCI Energies creates a great environment to learn and to thrive as a woman in Engineering and I would encourage all women to go for it and remember the example we are setting for all the women who follow in our footsteps.