Hoare Lea’s Women’s Development Programme (WDP) is now in its second year. The programme was introduced as part of the firm’s overall diversity strategy, which aims to improve the recruitment, retention, and progression of women in the firm.
Women make up 24% of Hoare Lea’s workforce and 16% of its 2018 graduate cohort, despite just 8.2% of mechanical engineering and 12.7% of electrical engineering graduate students being female. Despite this, the firm is conscious that the proportion of female employees at senior levels remains low. This is a problem experienced by many businesses throughout the construction sector, and points to the wider issues that hinder the retention of female employees and their progression within organisations.
A proactive programme
The WDP forms part of Hoare Lea’s overall management development strategy. A variety of programmes tackle everything from leadership capabilities to unconscious bias training, allowing people to develop their skills and increase their own self-awareness. The WDP in particular provides the opportunity for women to strengthen their confidence, be part of a learning environment where ‘limiting beliefs’ can be challenged, and receive ongoing mentoring from the firm’s leaders to aid development. Sessions explore topics such as managing organisational complexities, leadership skills, building self-awareness, networking, business development, and personal coaching.
Since its inception, over 30 women have been through the programme, creating a valuable peer network of women from different business areas and office locations. Feedback from those who have taken part indicates they have benefitted in a multitude of ways. The sessions provide a unique and supportive environment where women have felt able to share their experiences and perspectives with one another, leading to new insights, as well as helping them to feel less isolated. Each cohort is made up of women from all parts of the business, including central business functions, as well as engineers and specialist designers. This, in itself, was hugely beneficial in helping people across the firm understand each other’s roles better and promoting collaboration. The programme has provided fertile ground for new ideas about how to make Hoare Lea an even better place to work; not just for women but for all employees.
Below, two delegates and one sponsor share their experiences.
Frances Brown, Associate, Mechanical Engineering
2018-19 Hoare Lea WDP delegate:
The WDP helped me to reflect on my life and career experiences, and to be brave enough to believe in what I can do. The women in our group talked so openly about their experiences that this became one of the main benefits of the scheme for me. The WDP and the individual coaching sessions have, together, helped me to get back on track after my two breaks for maternity leave, plus all the challenges of continuing my career with two young children at home.
Claire Bosworth, Insurance & Risk Manager
2018-19 Hoare Lea WDP delegate:
The WDP came at an opportune moment for me, as I had been back at work after maternity leave for just over a year. Taking part in the WDP really helped me focus on my career progression in the firm, particularly as I’d recently changed roles. The work we did in the sessions gave me plenty of opportunity for reflection and self-awareness. I was able to address my findings with my Partner Mentor in 1-1 sessions that were invaluable and really helped to boost my confidence. Overall, I found the programme to be very beneficial because of the safe environment in which we could bring issues to the table. Given the positive nature of the group, we were all able to offer different perspectives and provide meaningful peer support to each other.
Ashley Bateson, Partner
2018-19 WDP sponsor:
Being a WDP sponsor demonstrated to me how useful the programme is for our leadership, as well as the delegates themselves. It gives us the opportunity to see how the business is perceived by others and opens up healthy dialogue about how the leadership can respond to delegates’ experiences. Ultimately, this is all about improving diversity in our firm, and that means listening on all sides.