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AECOM reflects on International Women's Day celebrations

 June 02, 2020

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To mark International Women’s Day (IWD) and support its #EachforEqual theme, AECOM held a series of events celebrating gender diversity and highlighting the role that everyone can play in helping to create an equal world.

Lara Poloni AECOM
Lara Poloni, AECOM Chief Executive (EMEA)

AECOM Chief Executive of Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Lara Poloni said: “I think International Women’s Day is a really great opportunity once a year to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come in terms of gender diversity in particular.”

To mark the day, Lara also sat down with one of the company’s UK & Ireland based graduates to record a short video that addressed questions about IWD's #EachforEqual received from people across AECOM's EMEA region.

AECOM’s IWD celebrations in the Middle East

In the Middle East, some of AECOM’s senior leaders joined discussion panels to talk about ‘driving your career’ with a focus on women and diversity.

“The panels provided a forum to hear personal anecdotes from our leaders around career progression and their experience of gender diversity in the Middle East construction industry,” said Faye Bastow, Director of Marketing and Communications, Middle East & Africa. “The discussion on ‘the best career decision’ was particularly insightful, with panellists sharing their experience of tasks and responsibilities that took them beyond their comfort zone and resulted in personal growth.”

Supporting a local shelter

As part of AECOM’s corporate responsibility activities in the UAE, its Abu Dhabi and Dubai offices supported Ewaa, a local shelter that helps victims of human trafficking. Employees donated toiletries, clothing and everyday items to support the individuals.

Leaders make key statements

AECOM Chief Executive of the Middle East & Africa, Hamed, Zaghw, spoke about how the company is committed to diversity and inclusion. He said: “The ability to draw on the skills of a diverse range of people from a variety of different backgrounds is vital to our success as a business and the projects we deliver. Greater diversity leads to better outcomes, encouraging innovation and creativity.”

Meanwhile, the team in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) celebrated IWD with a series of activities across all KSA corporate offices. The festivities commenced with statements from Ian Laski, KSA President and Chief Executive, and Mousa Mashraqi, VP of HR and Shared Services, KSA, who both affirmed that AECOM’s female employees play a vital role in the company‘s growth.

Areej Alamer, Senior Talent Acquisition Advisor, Saudi Arabia, said: “The best career decision I have made is to say ‘yes’ to things outside my comfort zone. After years of recruiting in health sectors, the idea of changing end markets was terrifying and the transition to engineering as a woman wasn’t easy. By saying ‘yes’, and opening myself up to new tasks, I secured an amazing job [at AECOM] working with a team that I love.”

Talks from inspirational women

Elsewhere in the region, Bahrain hosted a series of talks from inspirational women. Multi-award-winning lawyer and founder of Al Haddad Law Firm, Faten Al Haddad, and fashion designer and winner of several business and entrepreneurship awards, Fatima Al Atawi, spoke about their experiences and support for women’s equality.

Taking part in interactive forums

AECOM in Qatar hosted a series of interactive forums that discussed the perceptions of equality, and supported IWD’s message of ‘an equal world is an enabled world’. The team also participated in various activities such as photo competitions, wearing purple to work and donating much-needed toiletries for the Polo Owwa Women and Children’s Shelter in Doha.

Pledges made in South Africa

AECOM South Africa
AECOM colleagues made pledges to mark International Women's Day.

In AECOM’s offices across South Africa, the team reinforced that ‘equality is not a woman’s issue, it’s a business issue’, and created a pledge wall where employees made pledges committing to support female well-being in the workplace.

Visiting a residential care centre

In addition, some of the AECOM Belville office staff visited Ons Plek Projects, a residential child and youth care centre in Cape Town. The centre specialises in developmental and therapeutic intake services for girls who have lived, worked or begged on the streets.

Michell Bezuidenhout, Operations Manager, Africa, added: “IWD is a day that reminds us to constantly challenge stereotypes, not only in the boardroom but also in our households and communities.”

Supporting women to reach their full potential

AECOM continues to support empowerment, equality and opportunity by seeking to create an environment where all employees can reach their full potential.

“We are almost there in terms of achieving equal representation of men and women across our graduate intake in each of the three regions which is a great achievement when you consider where we were a few years ago,” states Lara Poloni.

AECOM Lara Poloni interview
AECOM's Lara Poloni discusses her views about the importance of gender equality.

“We have a great network of mCircles [women’s mentoring group]. They are a fantastic way of supporting the progression of women in our organisation, so I think that network continues to go from strength to strength.”

Lara also spoke about the important partnership with the Princess Nourah University in Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest female-only university. She said: “Our involvement there means we are providing many placements and mentoring to the young women coming through that university who’ll be joining the Saudi workforce.

“We do need to keep talking about gender as one element and one very important element of diversity,” Lara concludes. “It’s about making sure we check in with ourselves about where some of those everyday biases might be creeping in, in terms of who we go to have conversations about an issue or a problem, the people that we choose to be part of our teams.”

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