Why I'm honoured to be speaking at Women in Construction Europe


I am really honoured to be invited to speak at the upcoming conference Women in Construction Europe, and grateful for the opportunity to share a few more thoughts through this blog.

For me, equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is part of our everyday life at home as well as work – we can experience and learn through the diversity of family and friends and this applies in the workplace too. If we all bring our uniqueness to the table, we know we can come up with better solutions – that’s critical in a business like ours which solves problems as a way of life.

I’ve also looked at the rich mix of speakers and topics at this year’s conference. I’m keen to explore where I might be able to add a practical perspective or offer insights into what we’ve been working on in Mott MacDonald to support EDI, and gender equality more specifically. One key initiative I’d like to spotlight is our Advance employee network.

Employee networks can vary quite dramatically across organisations, from groups of passionate staff sometimes struggling to get support from their businesses, right through to networks which – in trying to serve their colleague members – can be sometimes seen as an agitant, less as a catalyst for positive change. We’ve sought to address this in how we’ve created our Advance network.

We’ve set up a strategic committee involving our regional managing director, human resources manager, EDI manager and senior staff who provide their insights across the business. Alongside this is our operational committee formed by business unit champions and champions in each of our offices.

We’ve also drilled down into specific areas and protected characteristics including gender, race, disability, LGBT+ and our Sunshine parents and carers group. Each group has co-champions who are given dedicated time and budget and supported by a board level sponsor. Our Advancing gender group has an agreed action plan aligned to our EDI goals of increasing the recruitment, retention and progression of female talent. It also looks at wellbeing, and because it has actions focused on supporting men as well as women, it mitigates the biased assumption that gender equality ‘isn’t about men’ or, for some stakeholders ‘isn’t about me.’

We know that women can experience the world of work differently from men. How gender is socialised and the way the world of work has been established doesn’t actually suit a lot of people. It was historically designed for what is fast becoming an outdated ‘male breadwinner’ model. So I was pleased to see several sessions in the conference agenda on changing the world of work to suit everyone – emphasising it is work and our own biases that need to change, not women!

Speaking of change, I joined the graduate weekend held by our North America business earlier this year. The experience left me so enthused by the talent coming into Mott MacDonald. This gender-balanced group represented a diversity of backgrounds and identities – a rich mix that made for a fascinating time with great insights coming from the project activities. I also noted the positive influence of gender-balanced teams. This can, unfortunately, be lacking at senior levels in our sectors – something we are working to address. In the UK, our senior promotions panels have been equality impact assessed to ensure we review a diversity of talent; we can see that female representation at senior levels has increased materially. We’re convinced this trend is continuing; with much still to do of course. More efforts are underway and I’ll be keen to hear ideas and approaches from fellow attendees at the conference.

Mike Haigh, Mott MacDonald Group managing director