This year’s IWD theme is #BreakTheBias – what have you found useful to break down conscious and unconscious bias in your organisation?
I think the first step to breaking down any bias is to talk about it. We need to admit it exists before we can expect people to address their own conscious or unconscious bias. At Watercare we’ve enrolled all of our people leaders in unconscious bias training to try to reduce the role bias can play in the recruitment process and encourage diversity in our workforce. Identifying your own unconscious biases can be quite confronting, but feedback from staff suggest it’s been an extremely valuable exercise.
Just having a more diverse workforce can also help to break down certain biases. While women are still underrepresented in our operations and infrastructure teams, we are seeing some promising progress, with females making up 68 percent of our summer interns and 40 percent of our graduate programme.
What progress have you seen in the NZ infrastructure industry over the last year to increase diversity and inclusivity?
It’s really promising to see an increase in female representation in the construction sector, with women making up 14.4% of employees as of September 2021 – up from 13.1% the previous year.
The Construction Sector Accord is in the process of developing the Construction Diversity Roadmap, using an industry survey and in-depth interviews to create a detailed gap analysis. This will feed into a Roadmap toward Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which will set a formal, industry-led plan to tackle these issues in the infrastructure industry. I’m really looking forward to seeing the direction this takes us in.
What diversity and inclusion improvements would you like to see in the NZ infrastructure industry by this time next year?
I don’t want to put myself out of a job, but I’d really like to see more women in senior leadership positions in the infrastructure sector. This is improving – at Watercare, half the directors on our Board are women, including our chair – but across the industry there’s still a big gender gap in senior leadership positions that needs to close.
We’re at the beginning of our journey towards gaining GenderTick accreditation, and are really proud to have recently created a Gender Transitioning at Work policy to support any employee who’s transitioning. It’s about making meaningful changes to create a truly inclusive and diverse workplace, one step at a time.
How do you think we can attract more women to the NZ infrastructure sector?
I think universities are doing a lot of work to attract female engineers, which is great to see. For starters, I think we need to create really good, inclusive workplaces, where people can be confident bringing their true selves to work. I think more can be done to remove bias in hiring practices. We also need to make sure women are fairly represented in leadership positions. By showcasing the incredible work our women are doing in the industry, we can inspire young women and show them it’s a rewarding career path.
How is your organisation celebrating IWD?
We’re celebrating International Women’s Day in true pandemic-style – with a forum for our people on Microsoft Teams. One of our leaders in our digital team will be sharing insights from her research on women in technology. Our senior leaders will also talk about the work we’re doing around gender equity at Watercare. I have no doubt we’ll see a strong turnout, and I hope to see a good representation from our male staff as well.