Fuelled by a passion in Civil Engineering, Pei Zhen is a testament of how women can also shine in the traditionally male-dominated Built Environment sector.

While many believe that the Built Environment (BE) sector is suited only for males, Cheah Pei Zhen, Assistant Project Manager of Boustead Projects, has debunked this belief to prove that gender is no barrier to making a big impact in this field. 

“When I started my career, there were worries from others that construction is tough and physically demanding – and too much so for me,” Pei Zhen said. While construction – a part of the larger BE sector that encompasses multi interdisciplinary fields of engineering – can involve strenuous work, Pei Zhen believes that it is no reason to say that women will not thrive in this industry. 

“I have ever encountered someone who believes that men are ultimately better in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), because ‘we are just built differently,’” added Pei Zhen. 

Speaking of her earlier years as a student, Pei Zhen said her choice of study was primarily driven by her interest in the subject. While reading up on the different fields of engineering, she set her mind on Civil Engineering – a branch of engineering that deals with the design, construction and maintenance of the physical and manmade built environment – as it combined her interests and strength in mathematics and science. 

“Eventually, I chose a career in BE as I find deep satisfaction and pride seeing my work materialise into existence, something physical that we can actually see and touch,” Pei Zhen said. 

To the naysayers, Pei Zhen, who eventually graduated with a Masters in Civil Engineering from Imperial College London, explains that women can bring different perspectives and approaches to problem solving. Indeed, the unique strengths that women offer to the BE sector are getting recognised, with the number of females employed growing from 8,000 in 1990 to 29,000 in 2022, according to data from the Census of Population 1990 and Comprehensive Labour Force Survey 2022 respectively.

Just like the transforming BE sector, Pei Zhen has grown in her seven years with Boustead Projects which began with a 3-month internship in 2016. She subsequently took on full-time employment after graduation, debuting as a Site Engineer for the DB Schenker Red Lion project, one which eventually received the Green Mark Platinum and LEED Gold award, a world-leading certification programme developed by the US Green Building Council that recognises sustainable and environmentally-friendly building practices.

“There were some ‘concerns’ when I first requested to be placed onsite!” she laughed. 

Pei Zhen has since gone on to take on the role of a planner and scheduler for JTC Kranji Green – Singapore’s first multi-storey recycling facility that handles multiple waste streams like metals, paper and plastics. The journey has put her on a steep learning curve as it required her to gain mastery of scheduling software tools like Microsoft Project, understand work sequencing and interfacing between different trades, and even undertake the client-facing task of project reporting – all of which she had no prior experience with. At the onset of the COVID-19, project planning was made even more challenging with the unknowns related to the pandemic. 

Thanks to her grit and determination, Pei Zhen overcame the challenges and subsequently embarked on her first and current role as an Assistant Project Manager for Boustead Projects’ largest contract on record – a design-and-build project for an integrated manufacturing, logistics and office facility in Singapore. Entailing an entirely different skillset, this new role required Pei Zhen to switch from the micro-level coordination of site operations to the bigger picture of project management. Being in a design-and-build project also meant that Pei Zhen had to be involved in design development and be familiar with various project submissions and processes. 

Reflecting on her time with Boustead Projects, Pei Zhen said, “Every project exposed me to different roles and responsibilities. I am constantly learning and gaining new and valuable experience, which I believe will build up a wide spectrum of knowledge that will be useful in time to come.”

Her message to women who are considering a career in BE? 

“Follow your passion and do not be afraid of joining a male-dominated sector. Change has to start from someone – why not you?”

Subscribe to
Boustead news