AECOM's opportunities for women in STEM
Kate Morris, a chartered engineer with 25 years of industry experience, is thrilled to be working with AECOM on mCircles, a mentoring programme and open forum designed for AECOM’s female professionals to seek and receive constructive advice for career growth.
“There is fantastic potential for women within AECOM, but sometimes women tend to under estimate their potential - if I can help other women by sharing my experiences and building that confidence, then I have made a personal, tangible contribution to developing a more balanced working environment for all”, Kate exclaims.
AECOM takes diversity very seriously and is actively looking at ways it can tackle the global skills shortage of female engineers and girls entering ionto STEM, through attracting and retaining female talent. mCircles has been set up to advance gender parity within AECOM and has senior level support throughout the business.
mCircles was established two years ago in the USA, and is currently managed in the UK by Kate Morris and another AECOM senior director, Nicola Gillen. Prior to launching, the mCircles team identified the key challenges women faced within the organisation. Focus groups were run and mentors were recruited and trained. The programme has very clear as was its objective - namely to provide women with a forum to share experiences, discuss issues and importantly help them to better understand how to address certain challenges.
“mCircles is about sharing their own experiences, gaining confidence and giving women the self belief, knowledge and tools to reach their full potential within the organisation”, Kate explains.
The mentoring programme has already achieved great success and is currently over-subscribed “We have 22 mentoring groups which comprise of between 5 and 10 women. Groups are mixed discipline, including women from all technical disciplines as well as the support functions. We’ve had over 400 women express an interest in joining the scheme, but have only been able to accommodate about 200 on the first round of the programme”, Kate reveals. “We are now looking at how we develop and expand the programme.”
As well as organising mCircles, Kate also personally mentors two groups of women. The groups meet every two months to discuss key topics such as work/life balance, and networking.
“The mCircle programme has sent a clear message to all staff that AECOM is working towards a more inclusive work environment, and that women are valued within our organisation. From my groups I believe the biggest success is providing the women with the confidence to challenge and drive their own career”
Feedback from the mentees has been excellent. Emma Gilmour, an Associate Director of Transportation for AECOM describes her experience as incredibly beneficial to her own career development.
“The mCircles programme sounded like an interesting idea and it has not disappointed. The opportunity for engagement on a number of focused topics, has given a sense of empowerment. I definitely appreciate the chance that AECOM has given me to join a discussion forum in a group of women of a similar professional level. That, for a senior engineer in a smaller UK office, is a valued thing indeed.”
Charlotte Brace, an Associate in Nuclear Technical Services is also finding the programme hugely rewarding.
“For me, participating in the mCircle initiative is a great way of discussing and resolving generic team and project management issues and learning lessons from colleagues dealing with similar challenges, all within a supportive and empathic environment.”
As well as delivering mCircles, Kate heads up AECOM’s Strategic Planning and Advisory department, responsible for the transport planning and development sector within AECOM. Working in the engineering industry Kate recognises that women are under-represented and mentoring programmes are vital to support women engineers and encourage them to reach their potential. However, Kate also acknowledges that there is an industry-wide challenge around the perception of the engineering sector as a career choice. It’s important that we challenge this perception to attract the next generation of engineers. A career in engineering is exciting, rewarding and plays a vital role in growth and the global economy.
Kate is passionate about her sector and what it can offer. “Engineering provides you with the opportunity to constantly develop and learn. No one solution is ever the same and so every day brings a new challenge. It provides you with the opportunity to work with individuals from varying professions and importantly contribute to projects that can, and do, make a real difference to the quality of life of individuals across the globe. Engineering has given me the opportunity to travel to different countries, meet interesting people and provide a career that challenges me technically and personally every day”
Where better to explore engineering opportunities than AECOM, a global organisation which is experiencing significant growth, and is actively seeking female talent to come and join them.
“It’s an organisation with unlimited opportunities – our technical work is highly diverse and there is the opportunity to take your career in a number of directions. There is a real desire from the very top through all areas of the business to create an inclusive working environment that gets the best from its workforce. Importantly I see people progress on merit with no gender bias” Kate reveals.
This is encouraging indeed, and AECOM is certainly working hard to support the career development of women within its organisation - and of course helpoing to increase the number of women entering STEM careers.