The NRP Women’s Committee sat down with Managing Director, Matthew Kennedy, to talk about the importance of diversity and equality in the construction and engineering sectors.
NRP is actively working towards a gender balanced and inclusive work force, resulting in women now making up 38% of the NRP team; and although we have more to do, our female workforce has nearly doubled from 19.5% in 2018.
We had a chat with Matthew Kennedy, NRP’s Managing Director, about gender equality in the engineering and construction sectors and the importance of hiring from a diverse talent pool.
NRP Women’s Committee was created several years ago. Can you briefly explain why it was created and the idea behind it?
As the business has grown, we have made a conscious effort to develop more inclusive hiring practices to ensure we have a team that is diverse both in terms of gender and ethnicity. The Women’s Committee was formed to help meet these aims and to make sure the women in the business had a platform and a direct channel to the board. The Women’s Committee also helps to support other women in the industry and is involved in outreach to get young women to consider a career in engineering.
The construction and engineering industry has been patriarchal for a long time. Change has slowly started in recent years but there is still more to do. What do you think we are doing well to help the shift and what more could be done to enable faster change?
There has been a big push towards creating gender balanced workplaces in the construction and engineering sectors. At NRP specifically, we have acknowledged the problem and are actively working towards solutions and working to attract more women to the industry. Big change often comes from national policy, but companies have the chance to lead by example and set targets for everyone else. Recently, in the UK we have seen steps forward around maternity and paternity leave, but we are still far behind many other countries.
How important is it for more women to be encouraged into the industry?
There is a huge shortage of engineers and skilled operatives in the UK; Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic have exacerbated this. Women are historically under-represented in the engineering and construction sectors, it is important, now more than ever, that women are both supported and encouraged to enter and prosper in the sector. A gender balanced workforce represents the world we live in and is crucial in helping to create equitable projects that benefit the community as a whole.
What has been your experience with seeing diversity grow in the industry and any positive stories that you would like to share?
Diversity and equality have been an industry standard for some time but only now are we really seeing this come to the fore. My personal experience is that the diversity in a business, whether gender or ethnicity, really drives culture changes and makes a business look at itself and how it can deliver both internal and external change. The engineering, transport and construction sectors provide a real opportunity to deliver cultural change and promote inclusion on a very short timeline compared to other sectors.
Why do you think it is important for men in senior roles to drive change?
We must lead by example; we have to recognise our failings but also see the opportunity in front of us. I have 20+ years left to work, what difference can I make? I want to be able to look back and say, “that really changed things”.
What one message or thought you would like to share with other senior leaders and decision makers?
Stop and look around you, really see what needs to be done in your business, in your industry, in your country and then go and find and train the best people to deliver what needs to be done. How can you lift up the communities you work in and strive to create opportunities for all? We have the chance to make people brilliant and drive real and tangible change.
What is NRP doing to help women within the business?
We have been looking hard at how we support our staff, and how we ensure the women in our business succeed, and importantly for us, stay with us. Key is that we ensure our recruitment practices are inclusive and show NRP as company where you can learn and grow your career. Well structured mentoring and training are important, as are pay and flexible working benefits that work for the individual and their personal circumstances.
What advice would you give to women considering a career in the construction or engineering industry?
There is such a diverse range of roles within the sectors, there really is something for everybody. A role within the construction or engineering sector presents a real chance to drive noticeable change in your environment. Try to do some industry placements or work experience, find what piques your interest. Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong, most companies will let you move around until you find somewhere to settle and promote that type of training. I wanted to be a Volcanologist, who knew? Lastly, come and chat with us the door is always open.