Companies should set targets and deadlines for the proportion of women they want to employ, Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne has told NCE.
Carne said that was the best way of steering engineering firms away from male domination.
Carne has demanded that 30% of his overall workforce be made up of women by 2018. This requires the rail infrastructure company to more than double the proportion of women it employs. Currently, women account for just 14% of Network Rail’s workforce.
According to campaign group Women into Science and Engineering (Wise) 13% of the UK workforce in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics occupations are women, so Network Rail’s figure is not far off the national average.
Speaking exclusively to NCE, Carne said that targets were necessary to see the number of women increase in the industry: “If you don’t set those targets, you don’t force yourself to think differently.”
He has also set a target for 20% of senior positions to be held by women by 2016 and 30% of its graduate intake to be female by 2019. Currently 6% of senior positions are occupied by women and typically, 20% of the graduate intake is women.
Carne plans to meet these targets by increasing the proportion of women joining the company and supporting their progression through to leadership positions.
The targets support and improve on Wise’s 10 steps initiative to attract and retain more women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics occupations. (NCE 2 October 2014).
Twenty other firms are also supporting the plan, including Atkins chief executive Uwe Krueger, Arup regional director Alan Belfield, Mouchel Group chief executive Grant Rumbles and Severn Trent chief executive Liv Garfield.
Carne was emphatic about his commitment to increasing the proportion of women in Network Rail, particularly in leadership roles to improve the output of the business. Experience in the oil and gas industry, he said, had taught him the merits of having more gender balanced teams.
More women in a male dominated workplace, “has a humanising effect; people listen more, health and safety improves, well-being improves, as does business performance.”
While Carne only took up the position of chief executive in February this year, his aspiration is to be succeeded by a women – that would demonstrate how far the company had come, he said.