International Women in Engineering Day: 'Challenging stereotypes'


The engineering and construction industry is challenging stereotypes. 'Male and stale' is a thing of the past, with more women joining what has traditionally been a male environment. 

Connect Plus Services (CPS) is responsible for providing highway network and asset operation and maintenance on the M25 and adjoining slip roads around London. The company is demonstrating its commitment to a diverse workforce. Increasing the number of women in its business is a strategic target, and CPS has set ambitious targets to deliver through positive action planning.

Laura Fox, HR coordinator, at CPS

CPS diversity champion, Rachael Palmer, has a comprehensive approach to achieving gender parity.

'It’s not just about raising awareness of the opportunities available in this industry. It’s also about creating opportunities that will encourage people to explore a career in engineering,' she says.

CPS is already making significant progress towards its gender diversity. With an industry average of around 10%, it’s ahead of the curve with women making up 18% of its overall workforce. And 69% of women working on the M25 are employed in project design and delivery, asset management and central support disciplines, such as centralised planning, and health and safety.

Over one in five of the female workforce work within service delivery, carrying out roles including incident support, maintenance, security and senior management.

CPS aims to increase these figures by around 15% by 1 January 2018, challenging in the current climate. But CPS has a multi-strand tactical approach that will make this a reality.

'CPS has a number of programmes that will support us to achieve these targets. We are working with primary schools to generate excitement around STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities, and have a number of excellent STEM ambassadors within the business who champion this activity. Making engineering fun breaks down the stereotype that still exists.

'We are promoting industry opportunities with local colleges and attending careers fairs, and our apprenticeship scheme is attracting the new generation of graduates. The men in our business are our women’s allies – we have male/female mentoring, for example, and our Women In Engineering events are open to and supported by everyone.'

Recruitment is another area that CPS has considered for measurement. Currently, 9% of all applications are from women and the target CPS has set itself is 15% by January 2018. Gender decoded job applications, and unconscious bias training across the business are ensuring that roles are filled on the basis of finding the right person for the job and nothing else.

CPS is creating exciting opportunities to reach professionals who have taken a career break. Its Returners Programme offers a way back into employment for anyone who has been away from the workplace for two years or more. In partnership with Women Returners, this programme and the flexible working options at CPS are of particular interest to parents who want to balance a career with childcare.

In 2014, CPS contributed to the creation of the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation’s (CIHT) Diversity and Inclusion policy and the business has definitely put its plans into practice, with women comprising a third of its senior leadership team.

'Our pledge for parity will see us exploiting the wealth of talent and enterprise that women bring to the workplace. With more than 20 years left of this contract, we are in the unique position to develop and grow careers for women, and men, on the M25.'

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