Coffey was the proud sponsor of the Roads Australia (RA) inaugural Women in Infrastructure lunch, an invitation only event held in Melbourne on Friday 11 November 2016. RAWiI DawnLara

Dawn Watt, Coffey’s recently appointed General Manager for Testing Australia, and Andrew Read, Regional General Manager, VIC, TAS, SA, attended the lunch along with a select group of leading men and women in the industry to discuss ideas and initiatives on how to improve gender equity practices, representation and retention in the industry.

A recurrent theme around the table was that women do not advocate for themselves enough (regarding better conditions, pay, etc.), and are happy to take a back seat while men will often promote themselves. It was also noted that there is still salary disparity between men and women doing the exact same job in the industry.

The presence of unconscious bias and the need for a critical mass of women in senior management to really impact on this bias were highlighted.

Women seem to be exiting the market in their mid-30s and maternity decisions are not the only reason – culture, lack of female leadership, and flexibility considerations were cited as some of the reasons. Flexibility in general is seen as a positive thing in the industry by both genders. There needs to be open and honest conversations with management about how young women – and young engineers specifically – can manage their careers and work flexibility so these issues are addressed early and the way forward is visible.

It should be noted that already many industry members are currently trying to reach a 50/50 gender balance in graduate positions. It was agreed that there is a need to further encourage and support female role models in the industry.

Coming out of the lunch, the RA Board will discuss the formation of a Diversity Chapter within RA which will address the potential unintended barriers to senior management for women in industry.

Coffey looks forward to working with Roads Australia on this very important issue.