Inspiring Women, Building Britain

The annual Taylor Woodrow Inspiration Lecture was recently held at the Institution of Civil Engineers, a befitting venue for an occasion intended to raise the profile among young people of construction as a rewarding career path and profession.

However, the focus of the evening went further than encouraging young people into the industry by posing the question of how can we inspire the best women to reach the top of their professions?

What better example than to listen to the experiences of three women who have done just that. Emma McNab, Business Excellence Manager for Taylor Woodrow; Ann Collins, MD of Conren and Beth West, HS2 Commercial Director captured the imagination of the young, predominantly female audience with explanations of their equally successful but very different career paths.

Emma McNab, who champions Taylor Woodrows Women in Construction initiative and who organised the event, summed up her answer to the question saying:

Creating clear and achievable career paths is critical to ensuring that the very best women join the industry and make it to the top. We have a huge number of very talented women working across the diverse range of skills and disciplines in the engineering and construction industry. Yet to be successful as the demands on infrastructure grow, we need more. Our challenge is to find new ways to encourage this number to climb more rapidly. At Taylor Woodrow I am pleased to say that we are successfully increasing the number of female engineering graduates we recruit and have now boosted our overall number of female employees to 16%. And while still short of representing the overall UK workforce, this is above the industry norm of 12%.

Lively discussion from the floor chaired by Anthony Oliver (former NCE Editor, now editor of Infrastructure Intelligence) suggested that if our industry addresses the problems of flexibility and work life balance, and brings schools and colleges to understand the diversity of skills the industry needs, the gender gap might sort itself out quite naturally: in fact we would attract and retain the best from all genders.