Women in Business - Penny Marshall | Living North

Women in Business - Penny Marshall

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As a Regional Director for the Institution of Civil Engineers, Penny Marshall is fixing the gender imbalance in the industry. She reveals her day-to-day experience, including the time she fell head first into a pile of slurry

All Penny really wanted was an easygoing, part-time job pre-retirement so she started working for the Institution of Civil Engineers, doing just three days a week as a Membership Development Officer. A few promotions later and she has now found herself in the (more than) full-time role of Regional Director for the Institution’s North East, Yorkshire and Humber regions.

I wake up at...
About half past six. I don’t use an alarm but I have a husband who kindly wakes me with a cup of coffee.

My morning routine includes...
Drinking my coffee, leaping out of bed and turning on the computer. I work from home so it’s easy to be online early.

A typical working day is...
Very busy and very varied. I always have about 10 top priorities so absolutely every day is different. Today for example I have had a chat with the personnel department about staff issues, I’m going to a meeting with other professional institutions to organise a debate for later in the year, then I am going to meet with the Chamber of Commerce to discuss policy, then I have another meeting after that. It’s back-to-back meetings!

At lunch time I...
Go out for a walk. I try to make sure I have a reason for leaving the house when working at home because it’s very easy to get out of bed, sit at the computer, work all day and get back into bed. But as you can see from the list of things I described there is a lot of out and about in the job too.

My most memorable work moment was...
Tripping over some reinforcing bar on a building site, falling face first in a pile of Bentonite slurry and standing up covered head-to-foot in grey mud, only to find the entire site had stopped, because those in the excavating machines, the labourers and everybody else watching me, so I curtsied and they all clapped. That will stay with me forever because it turns out I was allergic to Bentonite slurry and I came out in huge red blotches from head to foot and couldn’t wear clothes for a week.

The worst part of my job is...
The amount of emailing. I’m old enough to remember when all of the business came in as letters and memos and you had time to process stuff, whereas modern technology is wonderful and it means you can be very responsive. You can do things straight away and you know what’s going on but the downside to that is people expect you to do things straight away. We’ve got a culture of ‘everything has to be done right now’ and that gets quite stressful. 

The best part of my job is...
The people, I get the opportunity to support young engineers who are at the beginning of their careers and help them get professionally qualified and involved in the institution. It’s those people who make it a lovely job.

I finish work at...
7pm, so there’s not much of a rest in the evening! The lovely man who makes me coffee in the morning comes home and cooks my dinner, then I do exciting things like housework or washing. Occasionally I go out and spend time with friends but typically I am too tired during the week so that tends to be reserved for weekends.

Favourite Things

Favourite holiday destination...
The Lake District – I started going there as a child and I love. It makes me calm.

Favourite restaurant... 
My restaurant choices change but either The Herb Garden or El Coto in Newcastle at the moment.

Favourite way to spend your weekend... 
In the garden, I’m a very keen gardener.

Published in: August 2015

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