First up is Arup, an employee-owned business that traces its roots to 1946 when it was founded by Anglo-Danish engineer Ove Arup. The engineering and design consultancy now has operations spanning 39 countries and employs in excess of 11,000 people.
The firm is owned in trust on behalf of its staff. Vicky Evans, who heads up the Diversity Programme for the UK, Middle East and African region states that this “results in an independence of spirit that is reflected in the firm’s work”. Core to this is the, “embracing “of different cultures, diversities and backgrounds. Arup’s company’s values stem back to its founder who, who set out a plan to create a business that equally valued both men and women.“He saw diversity as utilising the best skills, no matter of background,” Evans explained. “Diversity is very important as the firm is all about the built environment, our work lasts for years. We need evidence of diversity in the buildings we create.” Arup’s vision for Diversity and Inclusion reflects these core values – acknowledging and celebrating differences and ensuring that everyone is treated fairly. “By embracing an inclusive culture that enables everyone to feel they have a voice, and to be themselves and supports diverse talent, we are able to collaborate successfully.” Evans explained. Evans told Real Business that Arup began looking in more detail at its diversity programme about seven years ago, particularly on the gender front. The last three years have all been about making sure leaders have the best tools in place when it comes to aspects such as recruitment, decisions around promotions and formation of project teams. In 2008 the network called ‘Connect Women’ was rolled out, to provide support, encouragement and targeted information, a platform for discussion, a forum to open up new business opportunities, and to encourage women to be early adopters of new business initiatives and pilots. The Network profiles senior female role models and has formed a mentoring framework. The network, Evans added, has served as a tool for discussion and debate – helping to raise the profile of gender diversity in what is traditionally a male-dominated industry.
The cold hard stats show initiatives are working and that Arup has grown female staff from 30.2 per cent in 2011 to 32.2 per cent in 2015. Perhaps what is more impressive is the percentage of females in leadership, up to 17.1 per cent from 13.8 per cent over the same period. The proportion of women on its UKMEA board recently reached the 23 per cent mark. And Arup works hard to retain its female staff throughout their career and boasts a 96 per cent return rate when it comes to maternity.
Arup’s diversity and inclusion strategy, which is set to run from 2015 to 2017 features seven “key principles”. Informed and measured, flexible, connected and engaged, balanced, transparent and accountable, industry-leading inclusive recruiter and employer and no nonsense communication will dictate its activities.
Evans also revealed that the retention of its talented female staff is high on the agenda, so rewarding and promoting staff based on merit is actively encouraged through the firm’s inclusive leadership and unconscious bias training. The leadership pipeline is regularly reviewed by Team Leaders to ensure that female staff are rising through the ranks without barriers. As it stands, Evans believes Arup is “punching above our weight” when it comes to a place for women to work.Evidence of this was the company’s recent inclusion in The Times Top 50 Employers for Women 2015. The list, which does not have a ranking, highlights businesses in the UK that are leading the way in gender equality in the workplace. Read our other four Business of the Year profiles:By Hunter Ruthven
Share this story