CN and NCE join forces to support women

Network Rail celebrates National Women in Engineering Day

Sister publications Construction News and New Civil Engineer are joining forces this year to champion the role of women in construction and engineering.

The two publications are marking International Women’s Day today with the announcement of their collaboration, called Inspiring Women in Construction and Engineering.

The joint initiative builds on previously separate initiatives from CN and NCE.

Among other activities, NCE has championed the achievements of women through its awards event, Recognising Women in Engineering, first held in June 2018. The awards programme has been backed by sponsor Curtins. NCE is also a member of the BBC’s 50:50 project, which aims for balanced representation of women in media reports.

CN, meanwhile, has run its Inspiring Women programme of workshops, conferences and webinars since February 2018. Willmott Dixon has provided headline sponsorship for the programme since its inception.

The two publications will now work together with a twofold mission: to provide networking opportunities and other resources to help women make career progress; and to help companies in the sector become better employers for women.

To address the latter goal, CN created the Inspiring Women Pledge in June 2021. This is a voluntary code of practice that companies can adopt to signal their support for women in the industry, and to take positives steps to further that goal.

Signatories to the Inspiring Women Pledge agree to:

  • Recognise the diverse perspectives and skills that women bring to the workforce
  • Ensure HR policies actively promote gender equality
  • Make unconscious-bias training mandatory for anyone in charge of selecting other people
  • Use inclusive language in recruitment adverts and job descriptions
  • Establish programmes for female employees to support career progression
  • Take steps to close their gender pay gap.

Engineering and construction company Laing O’Rourke is the latest company to sign up. Announcing its move today, it becomes the first to adopt the pledge as a joint CN and NCE initiative.

Rae Avatar Barnett, Laing O’Rourke’s head of people in its Europe Hub, said the firm is aiming for parity in the number of men and women it employs by 2033, with particular initiatives to improve diversity among workers in onsite roles.

“The targets are ambitious,” Barnett added. “Currently, 25 per cent of our global colleagues are female, with a very low percentage of tradeswomen and female technicians working on site. You can see the challenge.”

She said that adopting the pledge “provides us with the framework to spearhead change, building on progress we’ve made in recent years. The public pledge quite rightly holds us to account, and it gives assurance to our own people, potential recruits, clients and partners that we’re serious about breaking down bias and creating a gender-equal workplace.”

She said she hopes to work with other pledge signatories in the sector to “come up with solutions that will attract, develop and retain more women”.

More than 30 firms have so far become signatories, including Aecom, Arcadis, Costain, Keltbray, Mace, Murphy, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska, Vinci Construction Grands Projets, VolkerWessels and Willmott Dixon.

A full list of signatories plus further information on the pledge, including how to sign up, is available online.

NCE editor Claire Smith said: “I have seen a lot of changes in the sector since I started out as an engineering graduate 25 years ago, with a number of women now holding business-leading positions.” But she added: “The number of women in leadership roles still doesn’t match the 13 per cent of women we have in the workforce, let alone the 50 per cent of women in society as a whole.”

CN editor Lem Bingley said: “I am looking forward to working with the NCE team on the vital topic of gender equality. We are launching our joint initiative on International Women’s Day, but we realise that driving improvement throughout construction and engineering will be a long-term task. We want every day to be a day when women get the recognition and opportunities they deserve.”

Bingley added: “It’s great to see Laing O’Rourke so keen to make a difference, and signalling that intent by adopting the Inspiring Women Pledge. I urge other firms to follow its example and make the same promise of action on equality to their own workforce.”

The NCE and CN team will collaborate to deliver their first joint webinar on 29 March. Details to follow.

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