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Minister praises push for equal opportunities

UK CONSTRUCTION minister Nick Raynsford paid tribute to the ICE's proactive approach to equal opportunities at an ICEfloe reception for women Fellows.

ICEfloe, the Institution's equal opportunities forum, was launched last June with the goal of stamping out discrimination in the industry.

Raynsford, at the ICE to collect his own honorary, fellowship spoke passionately about the importance of such initiatives.

'It seems to me an absolutely obvious message, and I shouldn't have to come and say it. Equal opportunities are fundamental to the success of civil engineering in the UK.

'The Government backs all such initiatives and we congratulate the ICE for giving so much focus to this cause.

'We will see the success when we come back in 20 years and see a regular meeting that is as mixed as this one. I wish you every success, ' he said.

The reception was organised by ICEfloe chair and ICE vice president Michelle McDowell to encourage more women Members to push for fellowship.

The need for female role models at senior levels of the profession was identified by ICEfloe at the outset as vital, and one of its more ambitious targets was to double the number of women Fellows within a year.

Six months in, the target remains some way distant with a 25% increase achieved to date.

McDowell acknowledged that it is proving a hard task. 'It is a culture change, and you have to be working on a number of fronts, ' she said.

She highlights the significant increase in the number of women on Council this year as a sign of change.

The initiative has not just drawn the attention of the Government. McDowell points to the Royal Institute of British Architects, which was so impressed by the initiative that it promptly copied it.

But McDowell emphasised that ICEFloe is a 'personal statement about the ICE and what it should be doing'.

And what is it doing? McDowell explained that ICEFloe comprises eight volunteers representing a cross-section of membership, and includes a graduate, a technician, Members and Fellows.

Each volunteer has a particular focus - opportunities for women, ethnic minorities, disabled members, older members - and responsibility for advising members seeking flexible working practices.

The central volunteers are soon to be given local help, with each association being asked to identify an ICEfloe representative.

Changing the image of an industry that is seen by many as institutionally racist also remains a top priority.

ICEfloe has been actively networking with several minority groups, and has formed tentative links with the Al Kindi Society of Engineers, representing more than 300 engineers of predominantly Arabic origin.

ICEfloe welcomes any comments or feedback on the issues that it is addressing and its progress to date.

E-mail: or visit the Institution website www. ice. org/icefloe If you have a problem that you think ICEfloe can help with, you can call Pat Griffin in confidence on 44 20 7665 2077.

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