‘It’s the most sensible thing’: On this International Women’s Day, here’s why we need to create a more diverse engineering profession


Addressing such issues means feeling uncomfortable, she believes.

“If you really want to talk about equality and fairness, and assuming you’re open to reading whoever you mentor, stay quiet long enough for them to start the conversation,” Penn said. .

This feeling of self-doubt is definitely something she has experienced in her own career. She thinks back to an earlier time in her career: 20 years ago when she was working on the Crossrail project in the UK.

“I know my business. I know that piece of equipment on the railway that is about to go over the tracks is not safe because we have already dug a hole, she recalls.

“[But] I freeze and say nothing. And I don’t say anything because I’m still operating in a belief system that comes from my cultural background, that you don’t talk to your elders in a certain way, that you don’t show up, that you don’t make yourself visible. ”

She’s grown since then, but she still remembers that moment as a way to identify something that was bothering her at the time — and how she can respond to it. According to her, this ability to reassess is an undervalued skill, and recognizing such skills could be helpful in breaking existing patterns in engineering.

“I think the biggest bias we could start to break down is to assume that because someone – mostly a woman, sometimes a man – because they haven’t worked in that industry at no value to contribute,” Penn said.

“We have to let go of the prejudice that you can’t bring in skills from a different industry.”​​

Dean McIntyre, GHD.

Dean McIntyre
Executive Managing Director — Australia, GHD

Dean McIntyre, Executive Managing Director of GHD – Australia, said a lot has changed at the business since he started there more than three decades ago.

“I joined the company as one of many other male engineers in a very male-dominated industry and organization,” he recalls. “Today I think GHD and the industry are actually much more diverse, but this journey we’ve embarked on today has demonstrated how far we need to go further as well.”

Of GHD’s employees, 34% are women, a figure well above the industry average, but still below parity. Even so, McIntyre thinks the company is stronger for it.

“The perspectives that diverse teams bring to decision-making ultimately drive better outcomes for us, but, more importantly, for our clients,” he said.

Among GHD’s efforts to attract and retain women are parental leave programs, a career recovery effort that recruits workers whose careers have been interrupted, and the promotion of breastfeeding in the workplace.


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