It is well reported women in the construction, engineering and mining industry are underrepresented, making up only 13% of the workforce in STEM-qualified occupations in Australia.

Our industry has traditionally struggled to attract and retain women, across all skills, but particularly women in STEM-related roles (Science Technology Engineering and Math). In fact, one-third of women who graduate from STEM programs reportedly don’t enter engineering due to the perception that the engineering workplace is inflexible and not supportive of women. 

The lack of diversity in our business and industry impacts our ability to better problem solve and innovate.

One of Bechtel’s values is that our culture is diverse, inclusive, and collaborative, ensuring equal opportunity for all.

The business equation sounds relatively simple - we need to attract and retain talent so that we can develop, inspire, and see our diverse workforce thrive through inclusivity.  But without establishing intentional interventions, building a truly diverse and balanced workplace is a difficult objective to achieve.

Attraction and retention are two key issues.

For the attraction piece, we are partnering with several organizations that are aligned with our core values such as Engineering Aid Australia and STEM Returners. These groups encourage women and indigenous Australians into the STEM industry. 

In 2021, we partnered with STEM Returners to run a pilot Returnship program, where we hired women with STEM backgrounds who had taken long-term career breaks, and successfully supported their transition back into the workplace. 

Owing to the success of last year’s program, we are launching another cohort in July of this year, where we will welcome another group into the workplace for a 10-week paid placement in Brisbane and Perth for mechanical, electrical and civil engineers who are returning to the workforce. We look forward to welcoming this new group into the business and continue to build on our ability to bring people back into the workforce.

With respect to retention, our industry is evolving now more than ever. With the support of our customers, we’re embracing hybrid working models at Bechtel, and aside from our existing teams enjoying the benefits, we are harnessing the benefits to attract more diverse candidates. Additionally, it is important that the work we execute is challenging and promotes the development for our recruits.

I believe that by embracing programs that attract a diverse workforce and provide an innovative workplace, we will be at the leading edge of opening up access and opportunities to a more diverse, inclusive, and ultimately innovative sector.