Virtue Igbokwuwe portrait

Written by Virtue Igbokwuwe

Virtue Igbokwuwe is a civil engineering graduate from the University of Southampton, currently working at Eurovia. She recently took part in Tomorrow’s Engineers Week - an annual celebration run by EngineeringUK. Her YouTube channel, The Virtuous Life, has over 5,000 subscribers.

Looking back, I can recall the exact moment I heard the words ‘civil engineer’. I was having a conversation with my A-level physics teacher about an essay she had set. She told me about the profession and the wider engineering sector. She opened my eyes to a fascinating new world full of brilliant opportunities. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her advice and guidance. I’ve made it my mission to encourage more girls to follow in my footsteps and hope that you can help. So, I’d like to tell my own personal story of how I became a civil engineer.

Before starting at the University of Southampton, I remember desperately searching ‘civil engineering student’ on Google and YouTube. I was desperately trying to find someone like me studying the course or in the industry. I remember seeing a lot of aspiring Lawyers and Doctors on YouTube but not a lot Engineers, especially Civil Engineers.

Ask anyone what an engineer is, and they will inevitably paint a picture of a middle-aged man with a clipboard wearing a hard hat. Since entering the field, I have learned that the narrative around engineering being male dominated is so outdated. It really couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, my cohort split at university was 60:40, men to women. It’s an aspect of this industry that I wish many more girls thinking of pursuing a career in engineering were aware of.

I decided to take matters into my own hands. I started a YouTube channel, The Virtuous Life. When I began filming videos, I had two things in mind. The first was representation: showing a young, black woman in the field; hoping to inspire people. The second was to change narratives: showing the world that civil engineering isn’t a male-dominated field anymore. I began documenting life as a civil engineering student, including my lectures, labs, site visits and summer placements as a contractor. Today, my channel has more than 5,500 subscribers. 

It’s my ‘Day in the life…’ videos which resonate the most with viewers. They are a chance to see the day-to-day activity of a site engineer or a placement student. Not everyone knows an engineer or has one in the family and YouTube vlogs bridge that gap. I have become the ‘neighbourhood engineer’ that people need. It is so important for people to feel like they are represented. Seeing someone like you in a field you wouldn’t expect goes a long way, and people downplay the impact. From my experience, seeing people in a field or position I never imagined was possible inspired and motivated me to pursue a career as a civil engineer.

I receive comments from subscribers about how my YouTube videos have influenced their A-level choices and their desire to pursue engineering. They are a testament to the change in narrative that is so desperately required. We need to make the sector attractive to not only women, but more representative of our wider society. 

I believe if we start showcasing inspiring people in the engineering and technology field earlier on in our school years, it will give young people a chance to make a well-informed decision on what career path they want to go into. It’s hard to have an idea of what you want to do if you’ve never seen or heard of the profession before. We have a duty to inspire and guide the younger generation and show them the amazing works that Civil Engineers do, the mega projects and the local ones! There are many organisations that aim to increase the representation of women and ethnic minority in the Engineering industry such as EngineeringUK, the EDI Team at the Royal Academy of Engineers, Girls Under Construction, AFBE-UK and Go Construct. Partnering with such organisations, or getting involved with initiatives such as Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, can allow the message to be reached by more and more young people. It also means that schools can partner with those organisations and hold events, talks or workshops for the students to increase their exposure to the world of civil engineering and the variety of pathways into it. 

Graduating with a first-class degree in civil engineering has marked a new, exciting chapter in my life. I will continue to post videos to document life in the industry and hope to continue inspiring the next generation of engineers.

Virtue took part in a live broadcast to mark Tomorrow’s Engineers Week 2023. To watch the recording on-demand and access free curriculum-based resources to inspire young people about future careers in engineering and technology, please visit