Of the 51 graduates joining the company this year, 42% are female and 58% male. In comparison, WSP’s 2018 intake was 34% female and 65% male.
Ian Blair, WSP Managing Director, is delighted to see changes happening in the traditionally male-dominated engineering and infrastructure industry.
“Historically this hasn’t always been the case and I’m really pleased to see greater diversity in gender, ethnicity and thinking represented. We exist to design solutions that help societies thrive in a world we don’t control, and we need to approach things differently to combat challenges like coastal erosion, water quality and reducing loneliness in communities.”
“In order to create positive and lasting impacts in our communities, we must embrace the range of approaches and life experiences that a diverse workforce brings. That’s how we’re going to design the unthinkable and create places where our friends, families and neighbours can thrive.”
Blair says the industry is working hard to increase the number of women. The Diversity Agenda, of which WSP is a founding partner, has set a target of 20% more women in engineering and architecture roles by 2021 and the University of Auckland has set a goal to have 33% women in its first-year student cohort by 2020.
Figures from Education Counts, show female enrolments in engineering-related bachelor’s degree in June 2018 were at 18.7%. Of these civil and electrical engineering fields both had a 17% female representation, while mechanical engineering had 10%.
While Blair applauds the efforts of the industry he believes there should be champions pushing for faster change and calling for those in a position of influence to do so.
“Diversity and inclusion isn’t just an HR initiative, it has to be a business initiative and led from the top. I encourage anyone in a position of influence to look at their organisation and ask, ‘are we treating men and women fairly?’ – if the answer is ‘no’, or you’re unsure, do the research, face into the facts, and sow the seeds of change. You’ll be amazed at the impact this has on the engagement of your workforce and the outcomes you deliver for your clients.”
Blair admits that it’s been important to ensure internal policies set a company up for success. “At WSP Opus we’re also checking that our internal policies back our intentions. Things like flexible working and back-to-work plans for mothers and fathers – to succeed it takes a mix of legislature, policy and leadership. You won’t succeed without moving the two in unison.”
Last year WSP was one of the first large employers in New Zealand to close the gender pay gap.