#IWD, ED&I, Equity Diversity & Inclusion, International Women's Day, InvestInWomen, IWD2024, Women's History Month

This year, for International Women’s Day on March 8, we are following the United Nations’ theme of ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate progress’, which is based on the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals and is in alignment with our Sustainable Legacies strategy.

Follow our IWD 2024 blog series to hear from our leaders around the world about initiatives and programs geared towards investing in women at AECOM.

Engage in this year’s conversations on LinkedIn and X (Twitter).

We sat down with Kate Dunton, Director, Clients and Marketing, Australia and New Zealand and James Rosenwax, Regional Managing Director, New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory, who are also co-chairs of our ED&I Committee in Australia and New Zealand, to talk about International Women’s Day 2024 and the programs we have in place to support women’s progress in our Australia and New Zealand region.

Tell us why aligning with the United Nations’ (UN’s) International Women’s Day (IWD) is important.

Kate: I’m really passionate about this one. By aligning with the UN’s International Women’s Day theme, I think we position ourselves more meaningfully to a global movement. Our purpose is to deliver a better world, and UN IWD is an opportunity to align with the community in accelerating progress towards gender equality on a global scale. It can’t just be words and morning teas – we need to use our organisational context to promote genuine gender equality. I’m really proud of all we do supporting women within our organisation, but also in driving more women into STEM and in building gender equality for minorities and First Nations communities. I love that the UN’s International Women’s Day recognition serves as a catalyst for a more extensive, collective effort, and how it brings attention to the specific challenges faced by women and girls globally.

James: Aligning with the UN’s International Women’s Day recognition is important for us, particularly given the theme for 2024: “Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress,” which shines a spotlight on women’s economic empowerment. We know that when we have diverse, inclusive workplaces, our business thrives, so investing in women and accelerating their progress at AECOM is not only the right thing to do but makes strong business sense. IWD is more thana local celebration — it’s a global celebration fostering collaboration across borders, emphasizing that no country has fully achieved gender equality. By participating in IWD events, we actively contribute to advancing gender equality, whether by showing up, sponsoring and donating to initiatives, or spreading awareness. IWD isn’t just about recognizing achievements and challenges — it’s a collective effort to work towards a future where gender equality is a reality for all.

Tell us about the ANZ region’s Advocate sponsorship program for women.

James: Advocate is a sponsorship program that I have been a part of since its inception five years ago. The program is in partnership with an external company called Cultivate, and it pairs our ANZ executive team with high-potential women employees. Together, we participate in a year-long curated mentor program that focuses on honing leadership skills, expanding professional networks, pinpointing areas for professional growth, and sharing life stories and experiences. Spending time with my sponsee is my priority, and I find real job satisfaction in our relationship. I learn a lot from my sponsee, and it ends up being a two-way relationship. By spending 12 months on the program, we can develop personalized connections and focus on investing in the development of our talented individuals. We create a supportive environment conducive to career advancement and overall success. We have received great feedback from the women that have participated in the program.

Elizabeth Kittoli, Technical Director, Structures

“When I found out I was nominated, I was excited. I was initially slightly uncomfortable just because, to some, this might seem like preferential treatment for women. But women, they don’t necessarily get the same type of sponsorship, especially into leadership roles, as men do. You get to make connections, network, and just overall access to the senior leadership team.”

Kate: In my three-year journey as a sponsor in AECOM’s Advocate program, I am continually surprised by what I personally get from it. I have established several long-standing and mutually beneficial relationships – dare I say, friendships! Working in a predominantly male industry, this program has forced me to recognize the need to address organic male sponsorship bias, and I’ve reassessed my sponsorship approach – I think I’ve become a lot more intentional and conscious of the environment that women work in and the opportunities they are afforded. We need to tackle many other levels of diversity, but creating a strong and successful women leadership pipeline and providing excellent opportunities to our highest-performing women is incredibly rewarding.

Amanda Kerr, Area Manager – Hunter

“I had previously lacked the confidence to engage and form effective relationships with senior management across the business.  Spending time with Kate and being exposed to the broader leadership team, participating in their meetings, helped me realize that I do have the relevant experience to contribute. I also carve out more time for clients and strategy.”

What other steps is AECOM taking to embrace gender equity, or what has impressed you most to date?

James: We are committed to advancing gender equity within our organization and have developed a comprehensive gender equity strategy.

In tandem with our efforts, we are actively working to challenge and disrupt prevailing gender stereotypes and norms. Our overarching goal is to cultivate a corporate culture that is not only equitable but also flexible for individuals of all genders.

In pursuit of our commitment, we have implemented participation targets, both globally and internally within ANZ. These targets, publicly reported to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency for transparency, align with our vision of achieving a gender-balanced workforce, where 40 percent of positions are held by women, 40 percent by men, and 20 percent by individuals identifying outside the binary. This intentional approach ensures measurable progress toward our aspiration of fostering an inclusive and diverse corporate environment.

Kate: I genuinely think AECOM is committed to creating an environment where women thrive, and I love that we are investing significantly in programs that empower women. I wouldn’t have stuck around so long otherwise! Our gender equity strategy includes initiatives such as the Advocate sponsorship program and our mCircles network, which brings together women from across career levels to swap advice, attend development workshops, and explore job opportunities within AECOM. I’ve been a member of mCircles for many years, and I have established great relationships, received good support, and learned a lot. We’re teaming up with organizations like Work180 and Where Women Work to not only encourage more women to join us but also build a powerful network of women talent. I am also proud to have participated in the development of an explicit framework of inclusive hiring and remuneration review practices.

And, of course, our Freedom to Grow framework gives us all the flexibility to work in a way that suits our lives and career development. This has allowed my life and family to (mostly!) balance well over many years.

Learn more about our Advocate sponsorship program, mCircles network and Freedom to Grow framework from our women who have benefited from them:

Originally published Mar 7, 2024

Authors: Kate Dunton , James Rosenwax