Why ideas are gender free

Our engineers recently spoke to the Property Council of Australia (PCA) to discuss why ideas are gender free and the importance of females in the construction industry.
This article was originally published on the Property Council of Australia’s website here. 

We know diversity is good for business – it’s also good for building. As International Women’s Day approaches, we ask three talented women from Wood & Grieve Engineers why ideas are gender free.

The cities we’ve inherited are artefacts of the past, shaped almost exclusively by men.

But this is changing, and the fingerprints of female engineers, architects, urban planners, politicians and policy makers are increasingly imprinted on the world’s cities.

Women in all sectors of society, but especially those working in the built environment, will change our cities, not because they are women. They’ll change our cities because an additional 50 per cent of human creativity will make our cities better places for everyone.

In the engineering profession, the proportion of women continues to hover at the 12 per cent mark. But Wood & Grieve Engineers, is bucking the trend, where 24 per cent of its staff are women.

One of the company’s leaders is civil engineer and principal Vivienne Edwards, who says diverse thinking is essential in teams tackling some of the world’s trickiest engineering problems.

“Attracting women into the profession is undoubtedly a challenge – but a mission critical challenge as the world’s population and our cities expand. We can’t solve today’s problems with the same thinking that created the problems in the first place.”

Nurturing a pipeline of women starts at school, Edwards says, but she also thinks companies in the industry have a central role to play in fostering female talent.

“Providing examples of successful female engineers that truly embody work life balance is the most important action we can take to encourage more females to join the industry,” Edwards adds.

Rebecca Dracup, WGE’s sustainability engineer says a diverse workforce creates the dynamics that lead to better problem solving and business management.

“Plus, engineering offers a world of opportunities through the skills it equips us with. I think it is a great profession for anyone interested in shaping the world around them.”

Dracup volunteers her time to mentor undergraduate female engineers, and says “sometimes it’s as simple as giving them the confidence to ask for more challenging work. Sometimes it’s describing little known opportunities post-university”.

Dracup is a big fan of Robogals, a global volunteer organisation that inspires young women to embrace science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

“Robogals is doing some incredible work in making STEM more accessible to girls by developing school activities which put STEM in contexts which are more appealing to young girls.”

Sparking an early passion for maths and science is essential for the future pipeline of female engineers, says Priya Behera, WGE’s telecommunications engineer.

Behera’s interest in engineering was firmly in place by the time she finished primary school, and she says parents and teachers “play a very important role in forming a child’s outlook about careers and interests”.

“Being a good example ourselves will create an environment where a young girl won’t feel different in having an interest or doing well in these subjects or even pursuing a career in engineering.”

While Behera agrees we need more women in engineering, she’s quick to emphasise that ideas are gender-free.

“I have contributed with ideas to solve problems in projects, but I don’t think it had anything to do with me being a female. It was just me being an engineer and doing what I like doing.”