My Parent Is... Dean McGrail

Dean McGrail, our Managing Director – Property & Buildings, and Gender Balance Leadership Team Sponsor, shares his thoughts about ingraining gender equality and inclusivity into the mindsets of our people, industries, and wider society…

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role?
I joined WSP in Asia in 2002, initially in Hong Kong and then Shanghai, before transferring to the Middle East in 2005. Overall, I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years.

I’m currently responsible for our +800 Property & Buildings professionals across the six geographical locations that we operate in the Middle East. I’m passionate about WSP being the No.1 Property & Buildings consultancy in the Middle East, delivering cost effective, high quality, on programme and future ready Design & Supervision (in the disciplines of building services, building structures, architect of record, façade engineering, façade access, IT / communications, audiovisual, security risk management, vertical transportation, fire & life safety, fire protection, and integrated project delivery) and Project & Programme Management services for our clients across some of the most prestigious and prominent projects in the region.

I am also proud to be a member of WSP’s Global Property & Buildings Leadership team, the Global Practice Area Leader for WSP Building Specialists, a chair for WSP’s Global SMART Leadership team, and WSP Middle East’s Gender Balance Leadership Sponsor.

Can you tell us about your proudest engineering milestone/achievement?
I’m lucky to have had many proud moments throughout my career, but I’m yet to be proud of my achievements in Gender Balance. Whilst I’m happy with our achievements to date and how far we’ve come in a relatively short period of time, we still have a long way to go before I can say that I’m proud of what myself or our business has achieved in regard to Gender Balance.

Have you witnessed or experienced gender bias?
Having worked in the industry for over 20 years in multiple different locations I’ve witnessed many examples of gender bias. Whilst I can share specific examples, I would rather focus on two things that everyone reading this article can do to help overcome gender bias (and bias in general).

The first is to understand & recognise that bias exists, and whether we like it or not we all exhibit unconscious bias. Project Implicit, which can be found via a Google search, is an excellent resource which can be used to understand what bias’s you have.
The second is to commit to using gender-neutral terminology in our written and verbal communications and encourage others to do the same. If we all commit to doing these two small things we can begin to sow the seeds for real change in gender equality.

Where do you think we are at as an industry in relation to gender balance?

I think our industry is at the start of a long journey. Whilst we are starting to see subtle changes in the way companies in our industry (and the region as a whole) are addressing gender balance we still have a very long way to go.
To enact real change we need a multi pronged approach. As a minimum we need to encourage the next generation of young women to enter the STEM industry, we need to address bias in our industry at all levels, we need to recognise that unless you consciously include, you will unconsciously exclude, and we need to give families support so that having children doesn’t stall or end a person’s career.

How can we hold ourselves accountable as an industry when it comes to Gender Balance?

I know what sort world I want for my daughters to grow up in, which is why I value having the opportunity to do my part by being an advocate for inclusivity in our industry. It goes back to showcasing the benefits of inclusivity and gender balance and taking people on a journey by nurturing their perspectives and understanding that change & diversity drive not hinder productivity and innovation.

What do you think the future of engineering looks like for women?

Ideally, the future of engineering is one where we don’t need to vocalise the importance of gender balance – instead, these values will be ingrained within the mindsets of our people, industries, and wider society.

What would you like to share with the next generation of women considering a STEM career?

STEM needs you! You have the opportunity to enter an extremely rewarding profession, one that shapes the world and leaves something positive for future generations, why would you not want a career in STEM? If the next generation of women are not encouraged to enter the STEM industry, then how will we achieve gender balance?