In the built and natural environment consultancy space, 15 per cent of board members are women.

25 September 2013 — Consult Australia, the association for professional services firms within the built and natural environment, has released a workforce diversity report, and the results show that increasing the level and status of women in the industry will be a long mission.

Workforce Diversity: Industry snapshot 2013 canvassed 19,500 professionals working in the professional services industry for built and natural environment, with 58 on boards, and found that over 15 per cent – or nine positions – of its industry’s board positions were now held by women, up from 11 per cent in 2011.

The report said it was testament to industry initiatives designed to improve board diversity levels. However, the small sample size of board members means this equates to only around two or so extra females on boards.

Senior positions down

And while the percentage of female board members has increased, the percentage of women in senior or executive positions has fallen.

In the executive and senior categories, compared with the 2011 survey, the percentage of women employed slipped from six per cent to 2.2 per cent, and nine per cent to 6.1 per cent, respectively.

With only 28.7 per cent of employees in the industry female (compared with 47.7 for companies of over 100 staff generally), it shows equality in the industry is a long way off.

In the first level manager category, however, 16.7 per cent of jobs were held by females, up from 13 per cent in 2011.

Change won’t happen overnight

Hyder managing director – Australasia Greg Steele said firms had shown commitment to long-term goals to improve diversity, but warned that change would not happen overnight.

“The improvements we’ve seen since Consult Australia’s first diversity survey in 2011 are good,” said Mr Steele.

“However, improvements are not universal. In some areas there’s been little to no progress, but this should not deter employers from pursuing activities to promote diversity and inclusion.”

Pay is still way off

The report also highlighted the gender pay gap, with “a very clear gender pay gap in almost all career streams and levels, especially for those working in corporate and support services roles”.

In response to the previous survey, Consult Australia created a Consult Australia Champions of Change program based on Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick’s Male Champions of Change. It commits the signatories to actively advance equality across their businesses and to act as advocates for the consulting industry.

Hyder Consulting’s Greg Steele is chair, with current signatories including:

  • Arup chair and chief executive – Australasia Region Peter Bailey
  • Brown Consulting managing director Gary Spence
  • GHD general manager – Australia/New Zealand Phil Duthie
  • Golder Associates managing director and principal Adam Kilsby
  • Hyder Consulting managing director – Australasia
  • MWH managing director, government and infrastructure, Australia Mark Bruzzone
  • NDY chief executive Ian Hopkins
  • Opus managing director Australia Melvyn Maylin
  • Parsons Brinckerhoff managing director Australia-Pacific Mark Dimmock
  • Pitt & Sherry managing director John Pitt
  • SKM chief executive and managing director Santo Rizzuto
  • SMEC chief operating officer, Australia and New Zealand Hari Poologasundram
  • URS managing director, Australia and New Zealand Jim Mantle

Consult Australia has also created a Workforce Diversity Roundtable.

Consult Australia’s recommendations on improving diversity in the industry can be read in the full report.

The results have been revealed ahead of tomorrow’s [26 September] release of Women on Boards’ evaluation of ASX200 companies’ gender diversity practices.