International Women’s Day is global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and is a call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity.
This year the theme is #PressforProgress. IPWEA is proud to have achieved greater gender parity across both Australasian and Division Boards, and will continue to support and push for gender parity internally and across our industry. intouch
asked IPWEA Australasia Vice President Rita Excell, Board members Samantha Gain (NZ President) and Seren McKenzie (Qld President) and Young IPWEA Chair Nicola Daaboul how the public works industry is ‘pressing for progress’, the work still to be done and the role IPWEA is playing to help the industry progress toward gender parity.
It’s incredible to think that there are industries in the 21st Century that still have gender gaps in the most basic of areas, such as equal pay for equal roles! As an engineering professional, having worked in the public works industry since the early 1990s, I am proud to have seen how our industry has been a leader in gender diversity and equal pay, well before this became popular in the mainstream and social media channels. There is still so much further to go and IPWEA is well placed to provide guidance to other membership organisations struggling to achieve gender and cultural diversity.
Organisations in NZ are starting to recognise that diversity in thought is valuable to their business. In organisations that serve the public, including our public works industries, we can only be successful when we reflect our communities. We see more women in leadership positions in infrastructure, now, and I'm pleased to say the contribution we are making is noticeable! There is a way to go, and it's great that our members have ensured that our Board is diverse – we are proud to have five women leaders on our Board. IPWEA is working with our partner organisations across NZ to keep diversity on the agenda, to make sure women can have successful life-long careers in infrastructure.
This year’s International Women’s Day is all about ‘Pressing for Progress’. In the Public Works Industry one of the key and fundamental issues we should be pressing for is the need to attract, support and develop qualified skilled engineers with a particular focus on the youth of today, and our young women.
Young engineers provide fresh eyes in the industry. They tend to see things from a different perspective which provide opportunities to become more efficient and more effective. Despite contrary opinions our youth of today generally want to improve the way we do things, their youth and enthusiasm is an advantage because of their willingness to learn and their ability to rapidly adapt to new knowledge.
As an industry we need to press for and provide young engineers with an opportunity to be heard or to contribute to the industry as they are our future, and if we don’t do this we risk losing young engineers, as they will turn to other professions that provide them this opportunity.
I think as employers we need to ensure young engineers are given the best possible start to their careers. We need to provide them with opportunities to be challenged – how can you expect someone to rise to the challenge if you don’t challenge them? You need to create a culture within your organisation that embraces differences, inspires collaboration and motivates and innovates change. There are opportunities like engineering cadetship programs that we should be more involved with. You see, the focal point of a cadetship is to educate and train an employee with a specific industry skill set to effectively deliver infrastructure and services to local communities. If a council engineering cadetship is successful it will not only aid in the development of a highly skilled and employable engineer, but help build the leaders of tomorrow that will enable local government and public works industry to progress into the future.
In addition, we should have a more active presence in schools to raise awareness of public works careers and break down gender stereotypes. This International Women’s Day I challenge you to Press for Progress by encourage the youth and young women of today to pursue a career in public works engineering.
International Womens Day (IWD) is one of those annual events that leaves me a bit torn. I am all for promoting women in the workplace, but it has to be based on our ability to undertake the role. I have been lucky in my career that I have always had very supportive (male) bosses, who have allowed me to grow professionally and personally. This is probably why I am naïve to the statistics and issues about women in the workplace and the lack of equity. This view quickly changes when you do a bit of research and read a few articles with show some poor statistics for women. You soon realise why IWD is such an important event to support women, particularly in STEM industries.
This year’s topic #PressforProgress is all about progressive action to improve and influence gender parity. It may seem like a difficult thing to take on for one person, but our influence together as an engineering and public works industry can be great. We already have a number of females on IPWEA divisional boards throughout Australasia, as well as on the IPWEA board. This is a lot different from a handful of years ago and shows how far we are coming as an industry, and how we are supporting one another, men and women, to ensure we remain a progressive organisation.Has your organisation achieved great things and Pressed for Progress? Let us know! Comment below if you're a member, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Lead image: IPWEA NZ's female Board members, plus Executive Assistant Jacqui Carroll.