NEWS Practice

Blog: Marie-Louise Schembri talks INWED and raising the bar

Last Saturday marked International Women in Engineering Day, an international awareness campaign launched to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the career wide range of opportunities within the industry. The theme this year is #RaisingTheBar encouraging governmental, educational and industry bodies to profile the work that they are doing to provide opportunities for young women and tackle diversity in the industry.

As Head of Hilson Moran’s Masterplan Energy & Environment (MEE) Group and the Energy Team in our London Sustainability Group, I am passionate about our active involvement in increasing the opportunities for women within the profession. As we all are very aware, engineering and the construction industry globally has a significant lack of women in roles at all levels, not just at entry or board level.

To address the imbalance, we need to start at the bottom to tackle the gender stereotypes that exist for children. Many young people choose their GCSE and A level subjects based on future career prospects so it’s essential that they have a full understanding of the myriad of exciting career prospects within the construction industry which allows them to make an informed decision. It is also our responsibility to be ahead of the game and aware of how our sector is evolving, to give a future insight to tomorrow’s generations.

That is why we are working with the Girls Day School Trust to try and change the future of engineering. We offer full or half-day workshops with school girls designed to dispel any myths about what a typical engineering role looks like and demonstrate the career pathways available. We are also offering visits to our Manchester, London or Farnborough offices to show students the inner workings of an engineering design studio. The students are able to see designs in progress with BIM and VR tech, scripting and parametric modelling, and spend time with a number of our teams to ask questions and understand the flavours of each job.

In addition, we have a team of STEM ambassadors who work closely with Schools, Colleges and Universities and across the country to deliver similar events. We have partnerships with Loughborough University, London South Bank University, University of Nottingham, Newcastle University, Sidney Sussex College (University of Cambridge), University of Aberdeen and University of Dundee and others to keep them updated on changes to the industry and the opportunities for students. We offer a graduate scheme across all offices which is a three to five-year in-house education system. This includes a mentored programme of activities allowing graduates to gain a rounded view of the industry and spend time with different specialists. It helps them evolve their career path in an informed way and understand the importance of cross-disciplinary knowledge.

Within Hilson Moran a number of initiatives create an environment that allows women to progress and retain our best talent – even when life circumstances may change.

We are acutely aware of this in my team, I’m proud to say we have a 50/50 gender split and I find that this creates a better dynamic and projects simply run better when diversity is broadened within a group of collaborators and colleagues.

We have individual appraisal systems where staff can create their own personal targets and a number of our female employees are in management roles. This is made possible by our flexible working initiatives, which allows support for those with outside commitments, including myself as a mother to a young child. I found when returning to work that I was welcomed back and supported by the team, something so important to ensure I could continue my career. Individually and within my team we also try to take part and attend as many events supporting women within the industry as possible, such as the Women in Construction Summit and the Women in Sustainable Construction and Property network. These are valuable initiatives that allow women to lead industry topics and network with others strengthening their positions in the industry.

There is an opportunity for the industry to raise the bar to influence women and children now from the top down and from the bottom up. If we believe in equality, we have quite a bit of work on our hands to make our work environment catch up with this belief.

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