This month, we spotlight Pedersen Read, an engineering consultancy based in the South Island, which is a strong supporter of the Diversity Agenda. We talk to Director Andrew Read about why Pedersen Read has got on board and the changes the company has made to its business.
Written by: Kavita Kansara
What does Pedersen Read do?
Pedersen Read are consulting electrical engineers with offices in Christchurch and Dunedin. We are involved with the design of commercial buildings and infrastructure for a number of clients in the airport, sea port, supermarket, educational, medical, university and banking sectors. We have developed a specialisation in the security field, with the design of specialist security installations and the provision of security risk assessments for corporate and banking clients.
How many employees does Pedersen Read have and what is the gender mix?
We have a staff of 18, 11 in the Christchurch Office and seven in Dunedin. We have two women in admin support roles, one woman who is a health and safety specialist and also involved as a security consultant, and one female electrical engineer.
Why has Pedersen Read decided to sign up to the Diversity Agenda?
There are a number of reasons behind our decision to sign up to the Diversity Agenda.
- Having two new female staff members in the last few years has brought a positive new dynamic – not just to the working environment in the office but also to the way we approach our clients and projects.
- Proactive involvement by staff with various professional and industry bodies (Engineering New Zealand and the Association for Consulting and Engineering Professional New Zealand (ACENZ) in particular) has kept us alert to the deficiency we face in the engineering world by not tapping into women as a source of engineering resource. More importantly, the lack of diversity within the profession in the Western world is leading to a “group think” approach to the way we deliver infrastructure and respond to the challenges facing the world – climate change effects, aging infrastructure, poverty, urbanisation. A more diverse engineering profession – starting with gender diversity – will help us look at the problems of the world from different perspectives and hopefully generate more innovative solutions.
- Involvement by Andrew Read with FIDIC (the International Federation of Consulting Engineering Companies) has highlighted the lack of diversity that the Western world seems to have in the makeup of its engineering profession compared with many countries in Asia and the Middle East. In Iran for example, approximately 70% of science and engineering students are reported to be female, even though women are paid less than men in the workplace. This is confirmed anecdotally by a female staff member who is from Iran. The pool of engineering graduates available to employers will be greater and more diverse with more women students.
- In order to close the gender gap in Chinese science.
- A number of the “tools” that can make the profession more welcoming to women are beneficial for everyone – not just women. These include flexible working hours (including recognition that parents and caregivers often want the flexibility to take their children to and/or from school), flexible working conditions (ability to care for children or relatives), acceptance of racial and gender diversity (less male-centric work environments).
Why do you think it is important for firms to sign up to the Diversity Agenda regardless of size or discipline they specialise in?
As a profession, as companies and as individuals, we need to step up and support this. For too long we have said that the skills shortage in our profession is someone else’s problem to solve. That the long hours that we work is a requirement for being an engineer. That it is the women who must adapt to work within our profession, not the profession that must change. If we want to attract younger people into the engineering profession and retain them throughout their working lives, we need to change the face of the profession from older white males to something more diverse and welcoming. The Diversity Agenda is a way that all companies can show support for the initiative and help present a united front for the whole profession.
What changes have you made to your business since signing up to the Diversity Agenda?
We have fully supported our female Iranian engineer to become actively involved with ACENZ as the Canterbury Regional Chair. She was selected not because she was a women but because she was the correct person for the role.
We have not marketed our involvement with the Diversity Agenda on our website but will look to do so.
As an organisation are there any other areas of diversity that you are concentrating on apart from gender in 2019?
We are actively trying to recruit a young engineer at present but have had no applications from female engineers to date. We already have flexible working arrangements for staff but are reviewing what other systems we can put in place to make working more flexible for everyone.
What Diversity Agenda events have you been to and what value did you gain?
We attended the launch of the Diversity Agenda and selected staff have also attended a panel discussion on flexible working conditions. Each of these events has reinforced the need for us to continue to challenge the way we have traditionally worked.