It’s no secret that the engineering profession is male dominant – women comprise only 13 per cent of the profession. According to Louise Adams, Managing Director – ANZ at Aurecon, to help change the sway of the profession women engineers need to be the change they want to see.
“There’s not enough of us [women in engineering], so we probably have to carry a bit more weight,” she told create.
“It’s an exciting time to be an engineer. Our communities are facing some really complex issues – urbanisation, water security, climate change. And it’s really important that as people turn to engineers for answers, the people around the table solving those problems better reflect the communities that are going to be impacted.”
“Walk the talk”
Adams said there are a number of barriers to greater diversity in engineering, many of which can be influenced at the leadership level. Everything including a company’s parental leave and shared care policies, pay structures, leadership development programs and flexible work options can create a more inclusive organisation.
The issue of flexibility is something Adams feels is particularly important for engineering – and the wider construction industry – to address.
“More flexible organisations are just good sense for everybody – men and women,” she said.
Leading by example is an important step to making sure these moves aren’t seen as just an HR initiative.
“It is absolutely a message from the top, and the behaviours and principles and the messaging that comes from the top level of leadership must support why gender diversity is so important,” Adams said.
“Challenge yourself to walk the talk and put a diverse leadership team around you, and raise the bar in terms of your expectations about the number of women in your workplace.”
Lift each other up
Adams served as Aurecon’s first woman executive board member. It was an opportunity she “grabbed with both hands”, she recalled, and it helped prepare her for her current role with the company.
She said it is really important for women in leadership positions to ‘pull’ other women up, whether that’s through mentoring, sponsoring or promotion.
“I take very seriously my responsibility to be a mentor and a role model for women entering the organisation, but also the wider industry,” she said.
“It’s about ensuring that whatever support I’ve had that’s made a difference in my career, I pass that support on to other women. And perhaps any blockers that I’ve experienced in my career, I ensure that those don’t exist under my leadership.”
Adams, who will be appearing at Engineers Australia’s International Women’s Day events in March, said the day’s theme of ‘Anything Is Possible’ resonates with her.
“For young women who are either aspiring to be engineers or perhaps are new to the profession, I want them to feel motivated and inspired and feel they will be supported in achieving their full potential,” she said.
“For those of us who have had successful career in engineering, it’s about providing that support and guidance back to those younger women. And for men and women in the profession, as we go on this journey of creating a more diverse profession, to really roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty and play a key role in that.”
Louise Adams will be speaking at Engineers Australia International Women’s Day events. To learn more and to register, click here.