Black History Month in construction: Meshi Taka
For Black History Month, we spoke to Meshi Taka, a chartered civil engineer specialising in water and utilities in the North East of England. Meshi is actively involved in improving outcomes for people working in the construction industry, especially through her work at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).
An Associate Director at infrastructure engineering company Waterman Aspen, Meshi’s other roles include serving as Deputy Chair of the ICE Fairness, Inclusion and Respect committee, and as the ICE North East regional chair.
Born in London, Meshi grew up in Cameroon and is passionate about championing equality, diversity and inclusion in engineering and the built environment. Meshi told us about how she became interested in engineering and what diversity means in the construction industry.
Can you tell us about your background and how you initially got involved in the construction industry?
Meshi: “I was born in London but grew up in Cameroon. From a young age, I had a deep interest in Science, Maths and problem-solving. My father, who worked as a Civil and Structural Engineer, played a significant role in nurturing this passion. Throughout my childhood, I spent countless hours going through his engineering textbooks, calculations, and drawings, fuelling my desire to become an engineer.
I pursued a degree in Civil and Structural Engineering at the University of Bradford before joining MWH (now Stantec) initially for a 12-month industrial placement and later as a full-time employee with a focus on water and the environment.”
Can you share some examples of projects or initiatives where you've played a significant role or made a positive impact on your team or company?
Meshi: “One notable project that I am currently leading is Project Groundwater Northumbria. This is a groundbreaking initiative funded by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). It aims to revolutionize how groundwater flood risk is identified, assessed and managed in the North East of England. Flooding causes devastation to communities across the country every year with an estimated damage at around £700m and rising. Groundwater flood risk is a growing issue and still not well understood.
Through this project, we are developing regional models and databases that didn't previously exist, empowering communities and risk management authorities to become more resilient and better informed about groundwater-related risks.
In your opinion, what are the advantages of having a diverse workforce in the construction industry?
Meshi: “Having a diverse workforce brings a myriad of advantages. One of the notable benefits is an increased pool of creativity and innovation. Different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives foster fresh ideas and approaches to problem-solving.”
Have you seen any positive changes or improvements in the industry regarding diversity and inclusion during your career?
Meshi: “Yes, I have seen encouraging progress in the industry since I first entered it. There is a noticeable increase in diverse representation within the workplace, and more individuals are now willing to speak up and address issues regarding inequality. Additionally, there is a growing presence of allies who actively contribute to creating a more inclusive environment for everyone.
I write about the themes of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Engineering, and the future on my blog. It's an exciting space where I delve into the intersection of technology, innovation, and how they shape our world.”
How can construction companies and organisations better attract and retain talent from diverse ethnic backgrounds?
Meshi: “To attract and retain talent from diverse ethnic backgrounds, construction companies and organizations can take several steps:
- Foster inclusive cultures that value diversity and promote equal opportunities.
- Implement a zero-tolerance policy towards any form of discrimination or bias.
- Eliminate systems that facilitate discriminatory behaviours, such as biases based on names or ethnic backgrounds.
- Provide comprehensive training programs to raise awareness and enhance understanding of diversity and inclusion.
- Actively engage with diverse communities and establish partnerships to create a welcoming and inclusive environment.”
Feeling inspired? Share your stories of influential construction professionals today
If you want to highlight someone in construction who has inspired you, or to simply share your experience of diversity and inclusion in the industry, get in touch with Go Construct