Sean Barker sat down with structural engineer Dani Paxson, one of our Project Directors here at Holmes. This is Part Two of her interview where she discusses her involvement in the Structural Engineering Engagement and Equity (SE3) Project, the importance of role models, and what organisations can do to help those in minority groups to excel.
Here’s a short snippet from Part Two of Dani’s interview:
My focus is on the leaks in the pipeline and why women who are entering the profession tend to leave. We are getting the right numbers of women through the front door. We have been for some time now, but they’re leaking out at a higher rate than men.
What would you say to firms, and what could New Zealand engineering and architecture firms do to stop these leaks in the pipeline?
The most fundamental first step for most companies is to consider undergoing unconscious bias training. It’s pretty eye-opening and a great place to start to understand the dynamics between genders and other demographics you probably haven’t considered within your own company. There are invisible hurdles that, once you see them, you won’t want them there, and you’ll want to do something about it.
That aside, there are some mental shifts people have to be willing to make. The first of those is to be willing to stop making excuses. So, things like blaming the pipeline theory, or deciding that women leave for any number of stereotypical reasons we lean on we don’t understand. If we stop answering these questions we don’t know the answers to, with the fill-in-the-blank answers that we hear on TV, and in the media, then the next step is to start listening. For instance, listen to what women within our organisation want. Don’t make assumptions on their behalf, but start to engage with them. Find out what they’re looking for short-term and long-term in their careers, and ask them whether they see themselves fitting at your company.