Why has Mott MacDonald decided to partner with the Women in Construction Seminar?
Continuing from the UAE’s leadership vison and its approach to women’s empowerment, we believe this is a great opportunity to showcase our commitment to support and value women in construction. As well as acknowledging our own staff we also want to recognise all women in the sector. At the same time we want to encourage young women to consider studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at school and at university. This will help increase diversity and equal opportunities in our industry.
What initiatives has the company taken to get more women into senior and technical roles?
Our business believes that diverse teams enable us to deliver the best outcomes for our clients and we’re proactively working to tackle under representation of women. We have introduced a number of initiatives and it is worth noting that in the Middle East, our professional excellence director, marketing, built environment, early career professional leads, are all women.
On a Group level, we have a global equality diversity and inclusion (EDI) lead who actively creates and implements our EDI strategy and action plans around this and other topics. Our “Advance Network” initiative focuses on many areas such as ‘Advancing Gender’ and was established to support gender diversity and inclusion in our leadership, improve attraction, recruitment and retention of female employees It also seeks to improve health and wellbeing of male and female staff. Aims include:
- Support gender diversity and inclusion in our leadership
- Improve recruitment and retention of female staff
- Improve health and wellbeing of male and female staff
- Encourage greater gender diversity in the profession
We also encourage flexible and agile working patterns – and importantly, we’re shifting the mindset from traditional beliefs around presenteeism. We’ve worked on increasing family friendly provisions e.g. enhanced maternity and paternity leave.
Our female staff have a focused representation in our key programmes such as our “emerging leaders” programme where we do look at talent through an EDI lens to spotlight if/how the course helps identify a diversity of leaders. We are also a proud member of the women in science and engineering campaign which supports greater gender diversity for careers in STEM subjects.
What is the biggest challenge facing women in construction today?
Traditionally, women have faced challenges related to pay gap, career development, promotion opportunities and leadership appointments. We are however seeing policy changes and new practices in place to close the pay gap and to introduce more friendly regulations that should allow women to have a balance between their professional and private lives which will ultimately, allow women to pursue leadership opportunities and invest more in their career development journey.
Has attitude to women in this industry changed over the years?
It has indeed; there are many successful women in the industry who are inspiring and remodelling young professionals, and the number of female students enrolled in engineering has dramatically increased. Policy and decisions makers across the region are encouraging and facilitating women’s participation. This year for example, the UAE Cabinet approved a law ensuring women are paid an equal wage to their male colleagues.
How can more women be encouraged to take up careers in engineering?
We should raise the profile of female role models in the industry. To do this we can support and get involved in specific events such as International Women’s day, collaborating with partners, competitors, the community and others to make this as far reaching as possible. Every year we celebrate International Women’s day as part of our EDI calendar which also includes events on disability, culture etc.
Female role models from the engineering and consultancy industry need to get into schools and colleges to root out negative perceptions, falsehoods and sexism around what is women’s or men’s work. We must engage in mentoring and ‘sponsorship’ which is when your voice is represented without your presence. They have a key role to play in the development of women.
Work experience and internships need to be provided to female candidates and we must support the need for inclusive leaders in the industry. To support this, Mott MacDonald has rolled out training around unconscious/conscious bias for hiring and line managers across its global business.
What single piece of advice would you give to any young woman considering embarking on a career in engineering?
With gender equality in mind, I would give the same advice to any gender and that is don't limit your skills to engineering alone, and don’t underestimate the value of communication and people skills in engineering. Show thought leadership and work on your personal branding too. However, I am also mindful that women’s experiences of this industry can differ, so my view would be to reach out to role models and mentors of any gender to get their insights and guidance. It’s best to ask and be proactive, leaders are more open to providing guidance than we sometimes assume.
You can hear more from experts at the Women in Construction Seminar on 28th November, 2018 at The Big 5 in Dubai.