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I simply don’t believe that the issues of equality can be solved by short term measures.

Tackle detractors head on to build confidence in industry

Miles Ashley

I simply don’t believe that the issues of equality can be solved by short term measures. If we want sustainable progress, and a better future, we have to get down to the very hard work at school level.

Why? I spent some time with the head of the school of civil engineering of a large London University recently. He was bemoaning the difficulties of attracting women students into engineering and cited the experience of overhearing a schoolteacher actively advising 15 year old female pupils against entering the profession. “Unsuitable” was the word that he remembered.

I was able to contrast this with an inspiring visit to see the works being undertaking at Vauxhall, not least because 35% of the joint management team with our contractor are female. It’s a great start, but of course we could still do better.

When you witness this brilliant team in action, it’s nothing short of a tragedy to consider that anyone should move to close off these opportunities to young people. We have much work to do to ensure that these mindsets are changed and that we use our projects as exemplars, to give confidence and encouragement to a future generation.

I simply don’t believe that the issues of equality can be solved by short term measures. If we want sustainable progress, and a better future, we have to get down to the very hard work of ensuring that young people in education and at the start of their careers are enthused by the possibility of finding themselves a place in this wonderful industry.

We need to set our stall out to compete with other career paths to attract the best, we need tackle the detractors head on, and most of all we need to deal with anything that threatens a perception of professionalism.

Diverse organisations are great organisations. The research shows that they are happier, more rewarding and more productive working environments, and what has emerged at Vauxhall is a sign of progress, and a very good start.

It is nothing less than great news for each and every one of us. Something we need to do is promote the women who work with us as exemplars to those who are considering or starting a career in infrastructure.

How do you think we should use social media and other forms of engagement to communicate on this?

  • Miles Ashley is director of Crossrail and stations programme at London Underground

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