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WOMEN IN CONSTRUCTION

Sharon Walmsley, 35, (above) is a mechanical and electrical project manager on Morgan Est's Severn Trent Water AMP 4 contract

A LOT of people ask what a 'nice young lady' like me is doing in this job. At 18 I decided not to go to university and interviewed to be a lab technician, a trainee accountant and a trainee engineer ? luckily I was offered the last one because it was what really appealed to me.

I started on the tools at the Fox's biscuit factory on a full indentured apprenticeship but I left after three years. It had a bias towards mechanics and I've always favoured the electrical side of things. If you saw me strip a gearbox and put it back together you'd see that although it generally works it's never quite the same!

I went to the design office of Aughton Automation and we won a £3 million contract with North West Water to do all the electrical design for a new treatment plant.

I never doubted I could move from design into contracting ? I just thought: I could do that.

I applied to Morgan Sindall six years ago, as it was setting up a mechanical and electrical division. Now I've got the chance to work on major projects.

For me the apprenticeship was a great place to start. I don't know if it's because I'm a girl, but people will try it on with you.

They'll say: 'We can't do that, it's way too complicated.' I can just tell them exactly how they can do it, which gives me the edge.

I'm studying par t time for an MBA because I would like to progress further in management. It's a lot of work with a full time job but you get a real sense of achievement, proving you can do something if you put your mind to it. People say women have to work twice as hard to prove themselves but I would always do my best anyway.