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A proactive push towards property diversity

Driving diversity throughout the property industry – and especially in male-dominated professions like engineering – can’t be left to evolution, says Grant Holman and Vicky Phillips from Wood & Grieve Engineers, now part of Stantec (WGE). It demands energy and effort.

According to Engineers Australia, just 13.6 per cent of the engineering labour force is female – and half of the women who qualify as engineers never work in the profession.

Phillips, a fire engineer, and Holman, director and Melbourne office manager of WGE, are both passionate advocates for diversity.

And both are taking part in the Property Council’s 500 Women in Property program this year, Phillips as a participant and Holman as her sponsor.

Phillips says she jumped at the chance to be involved with 500 Women in Property and values “the opportunity to build relationships with other women in the industry and to be sponsored by someone in a senior position who can advocate on my behalf”.

Holman has been a long-time supporter of 500 Women in Property, sponsoring several women over the last few year as a member of the Property Council’s mentoring advisory board.

“It’s no secret there is a gender imbalance in the engineering profession. Change is not something we can leave to evolution. We must be really proactive, which is why 500 Women in Property is so important,” he says.

Holman, who joined WGE as a graduate engineer, has two young sons and is determined to be a role model by respecting, supporting and promoting women. He emphasises the importance of “investing in future generations”, which “brings me a lot of personal satisfaction”.

But mentoring and sponsoring isn’t all about altruism, Holman adds. “As a leader, it gives me a chance to learn different perspectives so I can make better decisions”.

While there is no difference between the sexes when it comes to innate ability in science and maths, men continue to outnumber women in STEM industries by a significant margin. Gender bias and stereotyping starts at a young age. For example, two thirds of children, when asked to sketch a scientist, will draw a male figure.

Phillips says her own experience with gender stereotyping started at an early age, but “I enjoyed maths and physics, and even though I was often the only girl in my class that didn’t discourage me”.

She thinks engineering is a natural choice for women as “good problem solvers” and urges other young women not to dismiss engineering as a career that is incompatible with parenthood.

“It’s sounds like a cliché, but my advice is to ‘just do it’. Don’t choose a career based on future life commitments or societal expectations. It’s a great career for women and can be as flexible as any other profession.”

Holman says its incumbent on men in senior positions to lead from the front.

“We all have a role to play in influencing the attitudes in our industry, and to ensure everyone feels like they belong.

“We have a really big challenge ahead to ensure a diverse talent pool for the engineering profession – and it’s up to all leaders to push harder.”

Article courtesy of Property Council of Australia; first published 17 April 2019.

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