Diversity is a business imperative

At Bechtel we are committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment where people of all backgrounds have the opportunity to advance and thrive. We are constantly refreshing how we engage our colleagues at all levels within the company in this agenda, as we believe that inclusivity is critical to the long term success of any business.

One area that we believe particularly important is the need to combat unconscious bias, an instinctive tendency to favour the kinds of people we are familiar with, rather than objectively to judge an individual’s capabilities.  

In order to combat this instinctive reaction, we have been rolling out unconscious bias training across our sites and offices around the world.  The training programme aims to help people at all levels of seniority to reflect on their existing biases.  

“Diverse teams foster different types of thinking and offer different insights into analyzing problems.  Simply put, diverse and inclusive teams produce better results.” 

Biases can be applied to people of all backgrounds – gender, nationality, religion etc - and can relate to any number of differences – even accents, personal tastes and interests – all the idiosyncrasies that make us individuals.  By increasing awareness and understanding of these biases, its aim is to equip people to avoid unfairly prejudging our colleagues or potential new recruits.  

We are also in the process of forming an international working group for diversity and inclusivity which will be made up of representatives of various minority backgrounds and groups, reflecting the diversity of the markets we serve.  The aim of this group is to support the development of an inclusive work environment where all employees can reach their potential.  

This includes the development of a framework, with appropriate tools, training and processes, for an inclusive environment, as well as tracking metrics for progress driving equality, diversity and inclusion.

More specifically with respect to gender equality, we have been actively engaged with a number of initiatives to encourage women to take up engineering.  With the predicted shortfall of 35,000 engineers in the UK by 2050, the industry needs women engineers as much as men. 

"We should all feel a personal responsibility to address this challenge.  I am sure that many other companies are also implementing great plans to strengthen diversity, and if not, they should be!"

We have signed up to the Government’s “Your Life” Government campaign, which aims to increase the numbers of women in engineering by focusing on the numbers of girls taking maths and physics ‘A’ levels.  Our campaign pledges include working with our partners, customers and suppliers to help improve gender diversity.

Our “women@bechtel” network is a collaborative forum for both men and women to share perspectives and experiences, and learn about tools for success.  Each “women@bechtel” regional chapter is empowered to set its own agenda. 

The Middle East chapter recently took the lead in us signing up to the Abu Dhabi American Chamber of Commerce ‘Women Achieve’ initiative, a programme that promotes the professional advancement of women in the region.

I believe that we should all feel a personal responsibility to address this challenge.  I am sure that many other companies are also implementing great plans to strengthen diversity, and if not, they should be! Our industry will only benefit as a result.

Ailie MacAdam is managing director rail (global) at Bechtel