The UK’s foundation industries have been urged to grab the opportunity to take the lead in gender equality during a UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) Transforming Foundation Industries (TFI) Challenge, delivered by Innovate UK, event held in London this week.
Organised as part of TFI’s flagship Women in Leadership Programme, the Stronger Foundations: Women’s Leadership & Allyship Summit celebrated the impact and benefits of the scheme through first-hand accounts from current members and training providers.
Attendees were introduced to the wealth of tools and networks available to foundation industry organisations which aim to support women’s leadership development by helping to build more inclusive practices and processes.
The event participants also learned best practice guidance and insights from successful case study organisations actively championing gender diversity and opportunities within the workplace.
TFI represents the UK’s metals, glass, paper, cements, ceramics, and chemicals sectors which are traditionally dominated by men, and still lack women in leadership roles. However, over the past two years, the organisation has acted as a catalyst for change, supporting 80 women from across the foundation industries and their supply chains in a fully funded leadership development programme.
Sarah Connolly, Innovation Lead at TFI, said: “Historically, the foundation industries were viewed as dirty, extreme environments unsuited for women in the workforce. Yet, as the industry continues to evolve with modern processes, this is no longer the case.
“As the industry grapples with net zero, we need workers with the innovation and skill to develop cleaner, greener processes and technologies and, ultimately, foster the next generation of sustainability leaders.
“Countless amounts of research shows women bring a different mindset to colleagues who are men, sparking new ideas, launching novel strategies and inspiring innovation.
“But to give women a seat at the table, it is essential that the many brilliant organisations from across the foundation industries champion our sector as an attractive, rewarding and inspiring career choice for women and girls.
“Today has been fantastic to bring together allies from across the industries to accelerate our drive to gender equality, and celebrate the achievements from our Women’s Leadership Programme, ready for adoption by industry.”
Keynote speaker and Head of BIM International at Mace Marzia Bolpagni added: “I am proud to have been invited to share my passion and achievements in digital construction to an audience of sector leaders, colleagues, and peers. Drawing on my own experience in the industry, I know the important role leaders can play in supporting women by implementing initiatives to overcome everyday unconscious biases and becoming a mentor to guide junior personnel as they begin their career.
“The Women in Leadership series is having real success in boosting gender equality in sectors where women are still a minority, but we mustn’t stop there. I would encourage leaders from across the foundation industries to get involved in helping to promote a more inclusive environment for women for the betterment of our sector.”
The aim of the Women in Leadership Programme is to encourage women and give them the tools to enter leadership positions or to assist those already in a leadership role achieve impact and act as role models and mentors for future generations.
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