Next Tuesday, it’s international Women’s Day (IWD). It’s a day to celebrate women’s achievement, raise awareness against bias, and take action for equality. Having a specific day is great – and we should all celebrate! But, if we want to make lasting effect, we have to go beyond this.
Over the years, the Diversity Agenda has spoken to a range of inspiring women, who’ve shared their experiences, advice, and what they’ve actively done to help accelerate women’s equality within Aotearoa’s engineering and architecture professions.
So, in light of IWD, we encourage you to read these articles and take note on what you can do to truly make a positive difference for women.
Big Interview: Ceinwen Mcneil.
We talk with Ceinwen McNeil, Chief Executive at BVT Engineering Professional Services, and strong advocate for diversity and inclusion.
Ceinwen discusses the difficulty BVT initially had attracting women and how they overcame this, how she helps younger women in a male-dominated profession to know how to conduct themselves in certain situations, and how men can support and be allies to women in the workforce.
“We were having real difficulty in attracting women to come and work at BVT, particularly women engineers, and part of that was in relation to how do we actually attract women to come and work for us when they walk into an organisation and they see, primarily, a group of young men….
I’m so proud to say we’re taking on 10 graduate engineers for our 2020 cohort, and 50% of them are women. People are just staggered that we’ve been able to make that movement in a space of, really, less than a year.”
Becoming an ally for all.
Lynda Simmons is an ally for women in architecture in every sense of the word. As co-founder and co-chair of Architecture + Women NZ, she seeks to help shine the spotlight on women working in the field, and support them throughout their careers to help them flourish.
“I had been watching waves of really talented architecture graduates go out in the world and not thrive in the profession, and it was really upsetting me,” says Lynda. “I felt somebody had to do something about it. I thought, how can we enable women to share stories and learn how others have done it?”
Driving change: an industry leader’s perspective.
Darryl-Lee Wendelborn, Managing Director at BECA, has learned the ins and outs of the organisation, where she started as a graduate and has risen through the ranks and achieved a top leadership role in this male-dominated industry.
Daryl-Lee discusses how increased awareness of gender inequalities, fixing the leaky talent pipeline and better flexible working opportunities will all help to attract and maintain women in the engineering profession.
“Flexibility isn’t a gender issue, it’s an expectation of the future work-force issue. If you wanted to relate it to gender, I would say that one of the best things we can do is enable our men to participate in parenting and to be fathers. That will deliver equality for women in the workforce.”
Big Interview: Warren And Mahoney Architects.
John Coop – Managing Director, and Sarah Coleman – Group, People and Culture Officer at Warren and Mahoney Architects, discuss how they are making change within their practice in terms of gender equality and D&I, what life is like as a woman in the profession, and the important issues facing architecture.
“We do have targets. We have targets relating to the number of female principals, the number of female promotions to associate and senior associate, and shareholding targets as well. We are measuring how we’re going, and we have a date by which we need to meet those targets.”
How can women get ahead? Take a break.
Sulo Shanmuganathan, previously Technical Director at Holmes Consulting and currently Chief Engineer at Waka Kotahi, discusses how career breaks enabled her to come back and love her career even more. She shares how she supports women returning from a career break – as well as women currently in the office, the importance of setting targets, and her advice to young women in the profession.
“Sulo found that her career breaks enabled her to come back and love her career even more, since, in her words, “Upon returning there is not the struggle anymore to achieve or to seek anything more than what you already have.”
Big Interview: Dani Paxson.
Structural engineer Dani Paxson, Project Director from Holmes Consulting, discusses her early career days, experience as a woman in engineering, the barriers she’s faced, and the power of networking groups.
“A women’s network started because a few of the younger female engineers sought out the women with experience and created a forum where they could have our ears and a chance to talk to us about how our careers had progressed, the challenges we faced, and what advice we had.”
Big Interview: Van Tang.
Van Tang, GHD’s General Manager for New Zealand and Pacific, discusses her journey into engineering as a refugee, the discovery of the ‘guilt phenomenon’ and why we still don’t have enough females in senior leadership.
“There is still work to be done in terms of seeing more women in leadership roles in our industry. But I also think it’s important that we stop and celebrate the incredible women who are in prominent roles across our sector. It points to improvements and that a step change in our working culture is underway.”
Big Interview: Aleisha Amohia and Angitha Ramesh.
VUWWITs a group for undergraduate students who identify as women or non-binary and are studying computer science, engineering and other STEM subjects at Victoria University. They provide opportunities for members to socialise with each other and industry in a supportive environment and skills workshops that aid members in their undergraduate life and beyond. We got to chat with one of the group’s founders and their current president about all things diversity and inclusion.
“I’ve also experienced that feeling of disappointment when I’ve been excited to attend a ‘women in tech’ panel and then none of the women on the panel looked like me. It’s discouraging if the women who are described as tech role models, leaders, or influencers, cannot answer questions from a perspective or background that relates to mine. And it highlights how true diversity is still not taken seriously by many STEM companies.”
Women in charge.
Colette McCartney and Olivia Pearson from GHDWoodhead creativespaces, to talk about their careers and life as senior leaders and female role models in the architecture industry.
“I also think it’s really important to lead by example and be a mentor for the younger generation, to show that you can aspire to be a leader at a higher level. Plus, it breaks down the stereotypes in the industry such as, women don’t know about finance or they don’t know about business. By becoming managers, we’re proving these to be wrong.”
Big Interview: Rochelle Kirby.
Rochelle Kirby is an engineer at WSP, and in her young career has many impressive achievements under her belt. We discuss Rochelle’s university experience and if she feels the profession is progressing, how to compassionately call people out for un intended gender-exclusive language, and how important the next generation is to achieving a diverse and inclusive profession.
“On the topic of gender terms and roles, when I started work at a previous company I heard someone during training say “When you go to a site, make sure that you sign in with the site manager, he’ll be able to help you out.” I asked, “Oh, are all site managers men?”
And of course, that wasn’t the case as many site managers are women. I’m not saying, “Oh, you’re mansplaining, or I want special treatment.” Because people don’t even realise what they’re doing. I’m trying to let them know that what they said made me feel excluded.
I’ve explained this to people and they’re thankful to be made aware of the impact their words have because I’m sure they don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable.”