The race is on for a gender equal workforce throughout engineering and infrastructure. In Germany, one third of scientists and engineers are women (33%), significantly behind the European Union average of 40%. How can we address the imbalance? Alex Hayes, director of LVI Associates, Europe, discusses the unique position that recruiters play in furthering gender equality, particularly in the built environment space.
The 2020 International Women’s Day theme is that an equal world is an enabled world. What does that mean to you in built environment?
It is proven that teams of mixed gender are more productive. In the built environment industry, it is about improving the numbers in gender diversity at both ends of the spectrum; how do we attract more women to come into our industry and how do we get more women into senior management positions.
What sort of conversations around gender equality do you have with clients and candidates in your sector?
Everyone in the sector is on the same page and recognizes the importance of more diversity. There is a genuine desire to improve things. Candidates are wanting to work in more diverse teams and clients are really thinking about diversity when discussing recruitment strategy.
There are differences in the emphasis on diversity within different recruitment strategies. With availability of skilled talent being the biggest challenge for our clients, it can be tough to prioritize diversity.
What role can recruiters play in creating an equal world?
We need to partner with our clients to help them with their equality goals. Our clients are limited to adverts and personal networks to find talent. In many cases, this limits them to a male dominated talent pool and they can be unaware that female engineers of real quality are out there!
Not only can we help open up their networks, and can educate and advise on making their businesses more attractive to a more diverse workforce. As we speak to more professionals in our sector than anyone, we get a handle on what candidates want from their employers.
We can also highlight to our candidates what initiatives and steps being taken by our clients to improve equality. Smaller firms are not the best at advertising their diversity to the market. We can play a massive role in making sure these initiatives are being heard about.
What advice would you give to a company trying to create a diverse hiring strategy?
Firstly, do you have an actual diverse hiring strategy? Simply wanting to 'hire more women this year' is not enough. How will you actually do it? What will you do differently and what steps can you take? How will you build an inclusive workplace that keeps the women that you attract.
Secondly, set yourself tangible targets! A recent study by Gartner found that 62% of companies with formal objectives towards improve gender diversity reported progress, compared to 29% of companies without. Take stock of where you are now and benchmark yourself against your industry peers. If one department is particularly balanced, explore why that is the case and how you can replicate their strategy and success. Understand what your end goal is and what you are trying to achieve.
Thirdly, starting at entry level is a great way to tackle this issue. How will you attract women at the beginning of their careers into your talent pipeline? Are you in touch with local universities? Are you presenting at industry events. Does the wider market visibly see you making an effort to improve in this department? Get yourself out there!
LVI Associates is the leading specialist recruitment agency for the infrastructure sector. We were founded to give candidates and clients peace of mind that the recruitment process is in expert hands. Today, we provide contingency, retained search and project-based contract recruitment from our global hubs in Boston, London and Singapore.