This year’s International Women’s Day focuses on improving gender balance across the world while celebrating women’s achievements socially, economically, culturally and politically.

Here at Westcounty Rivers Trust the team has a 50% split of women and men working at all levels and all departments.

Even with such a good balance at our charity, it is still important to us to encourage young women to see a future for themselves working in science or in a science related field.

Our Women Working With Water (5W) project aims to inspire young women to become water engineers. Funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, this scheme gives us the opportunity to work in schools, with the help of professional female engineers, to design and build Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS) with school children (predominantly girls).

For 5W, we have partnered with Dr Sarah Ward from the University of the West of England (UWE), and a team of engineers at Exeter University and OTA Analytics, to engage schools in Taunton in engineering and the contribution it makes to climate-resilient water management.

By working with the schools, the schoolgirls and their female relatives, we are building understanding of the urban water cycle and have built sustainable drainage systems on their school grounds.

These SuDS help slow the flow, diverting rainfall into rain-gardens and planters, where it can soak away into the ground. This reduces risk of flooding and helps the schools and surrounding communities be more adapted to climate change, while also providing valuable public engagement experience to the professional engineers.

Through this hands-on approach, our aim is to change mindsets and present water engineering and related STEM subjects as a brilliant option for young women. Plus we’re reducing the risk of flooding and improving water quality while we’re at it – what’s not to like?

5W is funded through the Ingenious Grant and comes to an end in June 2019.

Find out what the women at Westcountry Rivers Trust are saying for International Women’s Day by visiting our social media on 8 March 2019  #IWD2019 #BetterforBalance

The pictures above show some of our engagement activities at Lyngford Park Primary School in Taunton.