A commitment to eliminate gender bias at all levels — from its graduate intake to board representatives — has helped earn engineering and environmental consultancy firm pitt&sherry the title of Most Outstanding Company at Engineers Australia’s 2020 Gender Diversity Awards.
The awards, presented by Engineers Australia’s National Committee for Women in Engineering (WIE), aim to identify, recognise and reward companies that strive towards engineering excellence and encourage gender diversity.
In the case of pitt&sherry, it was the organisation’s practical steps that stood out, including having 62.5 per cent female representation on its board. The firm also established a diversity and inclusion working group in 2018, has made a formal commitment to gender pay equity and implemented a targeted campaign to increase the number of female applicants to its graduate program.
pitt&sherry CEO Benita Husband FIEAUST CPEng, who spoke about diversity and inclusion at the World Engineers Convention last year, said the organisation was honoured to receive the recognition.
“Gender diversity is vital to pitt&sherry as a demonstration of our inclusivity,” she said.
“The communities and clients we solve problems for are incredibly diverse; we believe building teams that represent that diversity can only be good for the design and project outcomes.”
GHD received a Highly Commended award for its approach to gender diversity, particularly the innovative programs it has in place.
This includes turning the idea that gender diversity is a ‘women’s issue’ on its head with its Co-Creating Inclusive Cultures initiative, which gave senior male leaders the opportunity to engage with the issue of diversity and inclusion — considering the rationale, exploring the challenges and co-creating thoughtful, sustainable solutions.
It also developed the Career Relaunch Program to encourage professionals back into the workforce after an extended career break — most commonly due to child care responsibilities — by providing a flexible and supportive working environment.
With female engineers representing just 14 per cent of the workforce in Australia, the profession still has work to do when it comes to gender diversity. This includes Engineers Australia, which is committed to achieving at least 30 per cent female representation on its Board of Directors, College Board and all other committees.
Other organisations are also looking to the future, including Water Modelling Solutions (WMS), which was awarded Most Ambitious Company.
While many companies have diversity and inclusion strategies, it was the firm’s actions and outcomes, rather than its policies and procedures, that made WMS a contender for the award.
Although it is a small business (WMS employs nine engineers) without the benefit of a large HR team, the firm was able to develop and adopt a set of values that support gender diversity — and staff live these values day in, day out.
Along with setting explicit values, WMS’ leadership leads by example, with 50 per cent female ownership of the business and 50 per cent female participation in its management team since 2015.
“It is our leadership and their ability to engender a culture of diversity through innovative recruitment that considers not only merit but the qualities a person brings to the company,” a spokesperson for WMS said.
“It is through our leaders’ abilities to ‘walk the talk’ and through their promotion of every staff member as a diversity leader.”
The University of New South Wales (UNSW) Faculty of Engineering was named the Most Encouraging Student or Non-For-Profit Group, in large part due to its ambitious Women in Engineering program.
Over the last five years, UNSW has significantly broadened the reach of this program, engaging more than 14,300 schoolgirls through events, presentations and workshops. It has also quadrupled the number of girls attending its Women in Engineering Summer Camp and seen 480 students enrolled in the Women in Engineering DevelopME leadership program.
“Our Faculty values note that ‘different perspectives spur innovative thinking’,” a UNSW spokesperson said.
“Recognising this, we are aiming to ignite new momentum in the recruitment and advancement of female engineering academics and students.”
The University of Technology Sydney’s Women in Engineering and IT (WiEIT) group was a close runner up for the award, taking out the Highly Commended prize.
Established in 1981, WiEIT is the longest running university program of its kind in Australia, and helps create a sense of belonging and connection for female students through regular social events.
Eva Cheng, Deputy Director of WiEIT said the award recognised the work and achievements of the whole community.
“Over the last three years, our Women in Engineering and IT team have focused on impact-led initiatives with embedded evaluation, informed by research and emerging best practices,” she said.
“Without our community of staff, students and industry partners and volunteers, we would not have been able to achieve so much and reach from primary school students, teachers and families, across to high school, into university studies, and preparing for engineering careers through a mentoring program with industry professionals.”
Learn more about Engineers Australia’s Gender Diversity Awards here.