Friday, 15 April 2016

Taking strides

Despite great advancements in the last 30 years, women in building services engineering and the engineering industry in general often struggle to get their start, and then to move forward in their profession. This week Laura Dunlop, Chair of the Women in Building Services Engineering group, turns the spotlight onto the group working to change the status quo and help women to advance in the sector

WiBSE’s vision is to inspire the next generation and create the support network that will enable more women to join, stay and progress within our industry and institution. This makes us rather an unusual CIBSE group, as our ultimate aim is to create a situation where we don't need to exist: we have defined a finite remit to render the group unnecessary as gender disparity issues are ironed out.

As well as organising events that bring people together and help towards achieving  our vision, our volunteers speak at educational events and get involved in cross institute events and networking, as well as supporting our institution at regional and national events / meetings and with government inquiries. We are members of the CIBSE diversity panel and have had influence over policy towards further inclusiveness that stretches across everything the organisation does, from a regional to a national level.

Our LinkedIn group currently has 900+ members and we have over 1000 twitter followers (@CIBSEWomen), where you can find plenty of news and information relating to events, initiatives, opinion and facts relating to the support of women in engineering roles. We have been active with CIBSE in supporting Women in Engineering, the Women's Engineering Society, Ada Lovelace Day and many other campaigns, all of which contribute to creating a powerful network of women engineers who are helping to change perceptions of diversity in the industry.

The all-women panel on wellbeing at the 2015 Conference and Exhibition 
And this is where you come in. While our overarching aim for the industry is broad - gaining better representation of over 50% of the population in building services engineering - our agenda is intended for the benefit of individual women in advancing their careers, giving them a voice and raising the issues that matter to them. Only by taking part in this process by giving us feedback, joining the group or even getting involved in running it, can you do your bit to ensure that our agenda remains helpful and relevant for all women in our industry.

This year we are taking stock and planning our activity for the next few years. Our run of self – development, management and leadership training / coaching style events that we have been running for the last few years have come to an end and we are considering how best to take this program forwards. Our steering group is evolving as some of our members move onto work with other groups in CiBSE (such as Resilient Cities) or take time out for work commitments.

We are therefore looking for new people to join the group and get involved as much as they want / are able. You can get in touch with us and register your interest at wibse@cibse.org.

WiBSE vice chair Susie Diamond writes in the Guardian about the group's aims
Our steering group meet between three and four times a year to review a program of events and activities that will help us to get closer to this vision. Since our launch event in May 2013 we have put on a yearly program of events such as management and leadership taster courses, confidence building programs, peer to peer mentoring courses and general networking events.

We had a great site visit and networking event with Women in Property at the Medical Institute in Liverpool in March and we are planning an event in Leeds with Alison Lowe, CEO of Touchstone in June and WSCP. Our network grew out of London and has spread outwards from there; we now hold events in London, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Scotland, and our new UAE group has started to hold events in Dubai. We plan to expand further and wider as we find partners to work with in new locations.

Our current focus this year and leading into next year is on industry engagement and coordination with other industry groups, learning from others as regards good practice e.g. what works and what doesn't and we are looking to hold speaker led events that are interesting and informative. We are discussing potential joint events with NAWIC (National Association of Women in Construction) and WICP (Women in Construction and Property) and we retain links with Women in Architecture and the Fluid Diversity mentoring program.

A WiBSE event at the Medical Institute in Liverpool
We’re open to working with other organisations championing diversity within our sector – just get in touch!

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