By Mailys Pineau
Last month, Women in Transport held its first event in partnership with Women in Health and Safety when nearly 200 men and women gathered at UBM's headquarters to enjoy an evening of networking, a lively panel discussion and some breath-taking views over St Paul’s and the Thames.
Katie Hulland, President of Women in Transport, opened the session commenting on the fantastic turnout and very promising start to our partnership with Women in Health and Safety.
She explained that we became an independent organisation last September, with a successful re-branding that has led to a major increase in membership. As well as our programme of skills development workshops, behind the scenes tours and networking evenings, Women in Transport is also helping to get under-representation of women in the transport sector further up the political agenda, supporting the All Party Parliamentary Group for Women in Transport and campaigning for change.
Clive Johnson, Group Head of Health, Safety and Security at Landsec, introduced the panel by recalling the radical change in perception of Health and Safety professionals over the past decade, something he feels can be attributed to a higher representation of women in the field. He said that the increased presence of women has made a substantial impact in changing the culture around Health and Safety, so that professionals are now perceived as enablers of change and not blockers.
The panel members were Holly Price, Lynn Way, Jacqueline O’Donovan and Mark Lomas.
Holly Price, Vice President and first National Female Officer of the National Federation of Demolition Contractors and Director of Training and Development at the Keltbray Group, started her career as an apprentice at Controlled Demolition and qualified as an Explosives Engineer, being the only woman in the field in Europe until very recently.
Lynn Way, is the first female Vice President of the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation and has more than 20 years of experience in the scaffolding industry that began through her involvement in the family business, Chris Sedgeman Scaffolding Limited where she is now the Financial Director.
Jacqueline O’Donovan is the Managing Director of O’Donovan Waste Disposal, a family business in which she took the role of Managing Director at just 19 years old. She is a fervent pioneer of employee training and throughout her career has challenged herself by going back to school in order to gain more skills.
Mark Lomas became Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at HS2 two years ago and throughout his career has delivered numerous diversity and inclusion projects across a wide variety of sectors. He is a published author on the topic of Equality and Diversity and has won many industry awards for his work on inclusiveness and for inspiring young BAME individuals.
The honest and very familiar accounts of challenges and issues that the panel had encountered, as successful women in their male dominated fields, raised many questions from the audience. One of my favourites was: “What is your top tip to be a successful female professional in a male dominated field?”.
Holly Price said the key element for her was not to try and pretend to be a man. Lynn Way stressed it is important to understand the industry you are in and to know where you are going within it. Jacqueline O’Donovan suggested women need to stop apologising when they have done nothing to be sorry for. Mark Lomas said, if you are not happy in your role and not getting the right opportunities or the training necessary to perform your job, then leave. If you understand your value then this is always an option and helps you and your employer understand your value.
Another interesting question was “What, as a woman, do you consciously do to influence the people you work with”. The answers came easily: be simple and clear, blunt and to the point, think before you speak and most importantly, be brave in delivering difficult messages and putting yourself in uncomfortable situations. In 99 per cent of cases being brave will be well received.
Mark added many interesting comments and observations from an industry diversity and inclusion perspective. He said that the processes we have used to create diversity in male dominated fields for the past 20 years have failed to deliver the required changes, and we need to radically re-think our selection and retention processes.
The panel discussion ended with a question to each panellist about their greatest success so far. Holly Price said that being invited to speak at events such as this one was one of her successes. Lynn Way said it was becoming the first female director in the National Access Scaffolding Confederation's 73 year history and meeting new people, particularly more women, in her field. Jacqueline O’Donovan felt her greatest achievement was succeeding as a Managing Director from the age of 19 in a male dominated industry. Mark Lomas concluded by saying that his achievement was seeing that people are getting more and more impatient about diversity, and hoping that in the coming years, different profiles will be represented in the industry at all levels.
Following the formal session, the discussion continued over drinks and hospitality. generously sponsored by GKR scaffolding, with the added bonus of glorious sunset views
The consensus was that it had been a really positive and inspiring evening. Here are a few comments from the guests
“Great venue and food and drink. The excellent panel members and well informed audience made this an interesting and helpful resource for me.”
“I really enjoyed the very interesting discussions, meeting other professional women in the field and the venue was really amazing”
“I loved the 'top tips' from the panel It was also a very relaxed atmosphere which I found very nice and helpful for networking afterwards The venue was fantastic.”
“It was a great opportunity to see what the Women in H&S and Women in Rail networks were all about and to meet new people and see some I already know.”
“Really nice atmosphere, brilliant venue and hospitality.”
“Loved the mixed audience and the high profile attendees, the location was superb”
“The venue - amazing! Everyone was very friendly throughout and I felt very welcome.”
Our grateful thanks to GKR Scaffolding for their generous hospitality and to UBM for providing the amazing venue