Atkins and Faithful+Gould organised its first annual conference for the Women’s Business Network (WBN) in October 2015. Women at the event talk to Construction Business News ME about how a women’s network could help them improve the existing culture in the work environment.
Atkins and Faithful+Gould (F+G)‘s WBN conference held at the Conrad Hotel in Dubai on 5 October 2015, welcomed 100 women employees along with a number of directors from across the region. The conference aims to bring together women employees within the Atkins and F+G network in the region to share their experiences, interact and encourage one another in the industry. The gathering includes employees across the GCC including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, and Qatar. According to Jenny Longstone, marketing and communications director, the event works on a first come first serve basis and can be very popular among regional employees.
She says: “We have 450 women employees working across the GCC out of which only the first 100 to 120 women are able to attend, which is why we organise conferences in different locations throughout the year including Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.”
The WBN works within Atkins and F+G and is chaired by a board of six women from across the business. “Its aim is to improve the culture in the work environment for women,” says Lesley Desport, associate director – Infrastructure at Atkins and chair of the WBN. “We want to increase the percentage of women in the business by improving our ability to attract new talent and retain existing talent and to ensure we have a more positive gender balance in senior roles moving forward.”
WBN is designed to break the stereotype of the construction industry being a male-dominated industry, and has put into motion a number of schemes developed to inspire and support female employees within the company to achieve their potential. “It also helps embrace equality and provides flexibility,” adds Desport.
This kind of network, she says, isn’t common in this region (especially in the construction industry). “It is a great example to follow for other companies, and it’s very encouraging for fresh graduates coming in.”
Desport observes that there has been a positive shift in the last three to five years, that has influenced and attracted women into construction. “It’s not as male-dominated as it was when I first arrived in the Middle East 26 years ago.”
F+G’s ME marketing and communication director Jenny Longstone says: “The perception that construction related industries in general are a man’s world is a perception we are trying to change. We are a people business and we are successful because we offer our clients a variety of talent, skills and experience. Our ability to do that relies heavily on creating a working environment that is exciting, rewarding and most importantly fair and to do this we hope to improve gender diversity and balance across the board.
“Women bring different skills into the business. We bring a different perspective.”