Connecting Women: to transport and beyond

For many of us, the start of a new year symbolises new beginnings. A time used to re-set and re-think our goals. Setting new intentions for the year ahead.

Across February and March we've already begun celebrating female awareness days like International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11 Feb), with more on the horizon, including Women in Construction Week (3-9 Mar) and International Women's Day (8 Mar).

The industry has a great opportunity to share stories from female role models to encourage and inspire new recruits.

Twelve months ago, Connecting Women became the expression of Copper Consultancy's commitment to help maximise female representation in the built environment; to use our network to connect women in the industry so that they could share their experiences more widely.

And why? Women In Transport identifies that whilst the industry is making positive progress in its diversity, women still remain underrepresented in the transport sector, accounting for only 26 per cent of the workforce.

One of the strongest challenges remains a lack of wider awareness of the opportunities, and a sense for girls and women that there are plenty of women already out there enjoying great careers in the transport sector, relatable role models and career pathways that they can emulate.

To provide some inspiration, we're reflecting on some highlights and signposting content delivered through Connecting Women. One of our earliest all-female panels discussed rural connectivity in the East, with insights from Marny Moruzzi from Mott Macdonald, Esme Yuill from Transport East and Sarah Jane Crawford from Network Rail. Sparking lively debate as Paula Clayton-Smith, CEO of LCRIG (Local Council Roads Innovation Group) noted: "What a fantastic conversation. I found myself nodding in complete agreement, and saying "Yes" out loud, a lot!".

Other successful all-female panels included discussion with Thames Water as they begun delivering £4bn of investment. Asking ourselves: "does a gender diverse project increases success?". Speakers included Leonie Dubois, Georgina Seeley and Clare Rees.
The webinar format can be a great way to bring women together, and all female panels can do a great deal to draw more female engagement. But when it comes to drawing in a younger generation there are also an increasing number of great partner organisations keen to help, alongside traditional routes like school visits. We partnered with The Girls Network, a charity that aims to inspire and empower girls by connecting them with a mentor.

They shared some concerning insights, including how 7 in 10 younger women affected by gender stereotypes say their career choices were restricted by it and that young women are more likely to be NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) and economically inactive than men.

In balance, the power of female-to-female mentorship had been helping them tackle representation gaps, improve the confidence of their participants and enable personal growth for both mentor and mentee. We held a Lunch 'n' Learn session to help promote their services to our clients; along with a closed event where senior women from major delivery partners like Nicola Bell from National Highways, Eileen Longworth from Balfour Beatty, Kate Bradley from WSP and Daljit Kalirai who gave up their time to chat directly to young girls, sharing their career stories, highlights and potential routes into the industry.

As we begin 2024, we continue to evolve Connecting Women by recognising the power of sharing stories. She Shares has become our new blog and podcast series to help inform, encourage and inspire both women and girls.

Already we have shared stories from inspiring women like Ailie MacAdam, President at Bechtel Corporation who has done a great deal to not only inspire and engage, but tangibly deliver positive change. She shared how she initiated a very intentional decision on Crossrail to increase the number of women working on the project of the 600 strong team.

While Sonya Byers, shared her inspiring story of how she proposed herself as the CEO of Women in Transport, despite the role not actually existing at that point, creating her own career pathway to enable her to champion something she was truly passionate about.

Our first podcast episode in January featured three incredible senior women at Galliford Try: Julie Crawford, Liz Bell and Alison Chippington, who kindly gave up their time to discuss the importance of supporting other women, creating a positive work ethic, and explain what it means to them to be part of a senior leadership team that is 40% women.

I'll give the last word to one of my team, Gemma Lloyd, who has been an inspirational driving force behind Connecting Women: "I think we all know that maximising diversity builds great teams, great projects and great businesses. There is a risk that we think we have solved the problem because awareness is greater. But we still have a way to go and more to do. So let's keep talking, and keep sharing our stories, particularly as the industry turns a spotlight on diversity in the coming months."
If you would like to get involved in future episodes of She Shares, or want to get involved in Connecting Women you can contact Gemma Lloyd at [email protected]