In a recent interview with Mr Thornton, we talked about the way diversity can boost creativity in teams and help overcome ‘group think’.
“Diversity presents a great opportunity for consulting firms such as ours to let individuals shine,” says Mr Thornton. “Put simply, different people think differently. By having diverse members in a team – typically those that represent different genders, ethnic groups, age, religion, and professional disciplines – we can generate multiple points of view, which in turn leads to an increase in innovation. This is particularly beneficial for our clients who look to us to break paradigms.
“When you break it down, gender is somewhat irrelevant in technical professions. While these are male dominated at present, the essence of what engineers do for example is about producing creative solutions to complex problems. As this is backed up by science and mathematical rigour, this process is about cognitive function, nothing else. And, that’s why we should have gender equality in technical professions.
“The other point about having a gender balanced workforce is that it is a truer representation of the population, which will lead to a better understanding of the end-users of infrastructure, thereby enabling the creation of solutions that a wider cross-section of the population will use.
“From a personal standpoint, I have two daughters in their early twenties that are starting their professional careers – one is a chartered engineer and the other is a landscape architect. It’s my hope that they will never be discriminated against because of their sex, and I see it as an important part of my role to have discussions with my colleagues and peers to demystify the issue.”
Change Takes Time
One the topic of establishing a more gender-balanced workforce, Mr Thornton believes that most organisations face the same challenge.
“It’s change that’s impeding the progress towards equality in the workplace,” explains Mr Thornton. “Ultimately people find change difficult. Having said that, there is a lot of noise surrounding the debate in our industry. And, that’s positive because the more we talk about it, the more we can do to address the imbalance.
“Changing mindsets takes time and it’s up to each and every one of us to be catalysts for change. More and more, I am seeing women appointed to leadership positions in the infrastructure space and that’s good because we need role models for young professional women to look to.
“Slowly but surely attitudes are changing. My focus on creating a working environment where personal choice is of prime importance and talent is key.”
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