Case Study: Marianne Brett, Environmental Scientist

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2019, we caught up with Marianne, one of our Environmental Scientists in the Geotechnical department of the Infrastructure division at CET. She takes us through her career and her experience as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry.



How it all began

“My career began in 2008 when I took up an opportunity with the “Year in Industry” initiative from the Royal Society of Engineering, which gave me an insight into meshing environmental concerns into a corporate environment. I subsequently went to Durham University to study Geosciences (which involved a combination of geology and environmental science) and then onto Royal Holloway University of London to study for a doctorate in Earth Sciences.

“My thesis looked at climate change in the South Pacific, using the geochemistry of cave rocks, so you can imagine I got to do some epic fieldwork.

“During my doctoral research, I had the opportunity to travel to lots of countries in the South Pacific and present in conferences around the world, which were great experiences.”

Decisions, decisions

“Upon the completion of my doctoral studies, I had to make a decision about whether to pursue a career in academia or whether I could apply my passion for science and environmental change to the wider community.

“Working in a commercial environment is quite different than academia; it must be more multidisciplined, time critical, and involves working with people from a variety of industries and backgrounds. This all sounded like a fun challenge compared to being in an underground lab on my own for months, as I was during my research.

“I joined CET at the beginning of 2018 and have been here for just over a year. It’s been great to be able to take charge of a project from conception, all the way to project completion, and to be able to be flexible with each job. I spend much of my time looking at contaminated land. It feels like we make a tangible, positive impact in the world every day, by making places safe for people to be in and diverting waste away from landfill wherever possible.

“When I drive around South East England, I often pass sites we have worked on, and know that I contributed to making that place safe for current and future users to get on with their lives.

“Now that I’m employed in a commercial role, I’m fortunate that I’m able to continuously level up my skill set through training and development opportunities, and to liaise with my peers through our professional organisation. Recently I presented to the Institute of Environmental Sciences, and I am currently working towards my chartership. I can develop my work towards my interests and I have a leadership team who embrace new directions.”

Women in STEM

“One of the reasons I decided to leave academia was that it can be challenging for women to progress, partly due to the way research funding is allocated. This is a well-documented issue that initiatives such as the Athena SWAN Charter are trying to tackle.

“Women are also underrepresented in Construction and Engineering, making up only 13% and 11% of the workforce respectively. I have experienced sexism and gender stereotyping within the industry, but management have consistently ensured that these situations are dealt with in a constructive fashion and I feel supported by the company.

“Additionally, I try to challenge any problematic behaviours head on, which sometimes leads to awkward conversations on-site, but ultimately makes people aware of what is acceptable when interacting with me.”

We need you!

“It’s an interesting, rewarding profession and I would encourage anyone who is interested to put themselves forward for a Geotechnical or Environmental consultancy.

“Your skills, qualifications and a positive attitude will get you the job, as well as a willingness to work outside in all weathers, get muddy and be able to interact with people with confidence. The more diversity we have in the workforce, the less opportunity there is for prejudiced attitudes to perpetuate. It is difficult to recruit a diverse workforce if people don’t apply – so just go for it!”

CET is currently looking for more Environmental Scientists to join its growing Geotechnical department. To see if it's the role for you, please visit our Careers page.