Female engineer at work

+ A more equal gender balance improves teamwork, boosts leadership and makes firms fairer places to work.

Arup is nothing without its people. We rely on their talent to produce the quality we strive to deliver to our clients. So we’d be very foolish indeed to overlook the talent that women can bring to our business. Indeed, any business that wants to do the best possible work should look to attract all the talent it can – including women.

There’s ample evidence that teams work most effectively when they contain roughly equal numbers of men and women. It’s clear that diversity in views and approaches brings better results. I’ve looked at the evidence and I believe in it. If our firm can achieve a better balance between genders we will become an even better firm.

From my own experience it’s also clear that diversity around the leadership table improves decision-making and makes for better and more effective businesses. Having a healthy balance of genders is one way to achieve this – because men and women tend to approach issues differently.

Improving the gender balance in our firm will help us achieve two of our firm’s other stated aims: being a humane organisation and conducting straight and honourable dealings. It’s inconceivable that any organisation can hope to be humane without being fair. This means taking an equal approach to men and women.

If we want our internal dealings to be straight and honourable, we have to examine how we make decisions about things like assigning responsibilities or promoting people. The challenge we face is common to other businesses in other industries: unconscious bias.

It’s all too easy to show favouritism to someone who is like you. In an industry that remains male-dominated, that can mean men promote other men. Everybody has biases, so the important thing is to acknowledge this and do what we can to put them aside when we make important decisions.

As we mark International Women’s Day, I know I’d dearly like to see a better gender balance at Arup (currently 33% of our workforce are women). It’s certainly something we’re working very hard to do. Beyond this, I’d like to see a better balance in the industry as a whole.

We must keep striving to encourage more girls and young women into the STEM subjects and welcome more women into an area of work that is both so rewarding and so crucial for society.