Karen Blanc, chair of local gender-balance action group AXIS Network, has been shortlisted to win the national WISE (Women into Science and Engineering) Woman in Industry Award. The award seeks to identify inspiring STEM role models new to leadership, who are creating significant change in their industry.
Karen is the operations manager for engineering consultancy Atkins, and is based in the company’s Aberdeen headquarters, with 100 engineers providing specialist late-life engineering consultancy skills to the oil and gas industry. The Aberdeen team are responsible for a number of high-profile decommissioning and life extension project across the sector, and recently hosted the successful Atkins Tech Talks, a technical knowledge sharing event which Karen was responsible for delivering.
Karen joined the energy industry in 2004, after gaining a master’s degree in chemical engineering with European Studies. She began her career in renewables, before later transitioning to oil and gas, and embracing international travel in order to gain experience in major project delivery. During her twenties, she lived and worked in Kuala Lumpur, Saigon and Abu Dhabi, finally settling in Aberdeen in 2011. Having led the process team for a number of years, she took on the role of operations manager on return from her second maternity leave early last year, and enjoys the variety and flexibility the role offers.
Having now settled in Aberdeen, Karen has built a home and a family here, and loves that Aberdeen is close enough to her family in Thurso, while offering enough of the benefits of “city living”. With her French national husband, a structural engineer who transitioned to the oil and gas industry from a career in bridge-design, Karen has two pre-school aged boys. The couple balance flexible working with childcare, alongside training for international-level touch rugby, and recreational CrossFit. Karen describes life as “full-on, but very happy!”
In January this year, Karen took on the role of chair of the AXIS Network, Aberdeen’s successful cross-industry gender balance focus group. The group was initiated in 2014, and over that time has grown to over 1000 members. AXIS’s vision is a fair and equal gender balanced Aberdeen energy sector, and they pursue that vision via a number of initiatives, including hugely successful networking event, a brilliant role models series, a well-received cross-industry mentoring scheme, and an active and busy thought leadership series, mainly shared via the group’s LinkedIn channel. Their event at Offshore Europe last month attracted over 400 people, and their next will feature author Caroline Criado-Perez and is already fully subscribed. (Sign up via www.axisnetwork.co.uk to be added to the event waitlist.)
The award results will be announced at an awards dinner in London on 7th November.