While a deficit of leadership skills may be the biggest bottleneck to infrastructure delivery in the future, the industry is not tapping into a large subset of the potential—women. Despite substantial McKinsey research showing that diversity is good for the bottom line, women currently hold under 16 percent of senior leadership roles in the industry.
Participants agreed that diversity drives better performance and is a competitive advantage, but acknowledged that systemic change is necessary to change the status quo. Diversity is also an important aspect to clients, and diversity requirements are increasingly factored into procurement decisions. However, progress is slow, and compliance programs rarely succeed. Driving gender diversity in the near term will require persistent and committed executive action. Some proven suggestions include:
- Ensuring pay equity to close the wage gap; Lara Poloni of AECOM shared there’s still a 22 to 30 percent gap in many cases.
- Rebranding the industry around delivering impact as a way of attracting women leaders.
- Working with educational systems to ensure a strong pipeline of women engineers.
- Opening the leadership path to generalists as opposed to promoting only from the technical ranks.
- Embedding diversity criteria into the procurement process to speed up the market forces.
- Finding opportunities to build diversity and advance gender equity within the GII community.