‘Adopt agile working’ to attract women in sector

Female CIBSE Fellows up 40% in the past five years – but more needs to be done

CIBSE Journal August 2018 Marian Ferguson

Marian Ferguson

CIBSE has a growing female membership, and it will welcome Lynne Jack as its first female president next year. However, the institution recognises that further work must be done to improve diversity within the industry and it has established an Inclusivity Panel to look into this.

Marian Ferguson, a CIBSE Mentor and partner at Energylab, recently took part in the European Women in Construction and Engineering Forum and won an award in the MEP category. ‘I was encouraged to see so many women involved in the construction industry. Unfortunately, there are still too few UK-based female building services engineers, with our European neighbours having a much greater percentage. Changing perceptions is key to encouraging more women to be active within our industry.’

Caroline Cattini

Caroline Cattini, a CIBSE interviewer and Membership & Registration panel member, believes that in an industry such as engineering – where there is a skills shortage – it is important to ensure it is an attractive career prospect. ‘Women entering the industry may feel isolated. It can be challenging not having enough role models, and this can put people off. This is also true when attending conferences, trade shows and courses, where there can be few women, and applies to minorities in building services.’

Ferguson and Cattini said flexible working – in particular around childcare – should be the norm. This is important not only to attract women to the industry, but also to retain them. ‘I know of many women who have left the industry because of negative attitudes,’ said Ferguson. ‘Lack of flexibility in working practices and out-of-date attitudes towards women in the workplace are barriers to attracting new talent.

‘Today’s young people expect agile working, flexible hours and open minds – practices that should now be the norm if we want to maintain and grow our sector.’

Professor Jack, of Heriot-Watt University, and CIBSE president-elect, added: ‘It is so important for CIBSE, indeed all engineering professions, to continue to promote inclusivity and diversity. This is such an exciting and dynamic field, and I hope we can continue to attract more women as we work to address building design challenges.’

CIBSE Membership is keen to encourage more women to progress their membership, and offers workshops, application reviews and webinars. Contact membership@cibse.org or +44 (0)208 772 3650.