#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).

Patrícia Vieira, Senior Vice President Finance, Europe & India, shares how AECOM, as an employer committed to gender equality, is working to support women through its Gender Alliance Employee Resource Group (ERG), and parenting and carer support.

As a working woman and mother, I wholeheartedly believe that ensuring women’s rights in the workplace is fundamental to our future. I have daughters and I want them, and every one of their friends, to have the opportunity to achieve all they can. So, the theme chosen by the United Nations this year to mark International Women’s Day: ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’, is something that I would encourage all employers to actively address.

Rebalancing care responsibilities

Firstly, it’s important to consider that there are many external factors globally that impact women and subsequently impact women in the workplace.  According to a recent UN report, due to protracted conflicts and the accelerating impacts of climate change, unpaid care work and domestic work is unevenly placed on women, particularly those aged 26 to 35, which coincides with the age a woman typically has their first child. The same report again highlights what most people already see, that caring for aging parents disproportionately falls on women too.

Our Freedom to Grow framework empowers both male and female employees to work in a way which suits their team and their clients, whilst balancing other priorities in their lives and ensuring these responsibilities don’t fall mainly on women.

Supporting women’s careers

When we talk about accelerating change, support and remuneration in the workplace is a huge area where businesses globally can make change. Part-time work is a driver of a pay gap as it is more common in lower paid roles, but it persists even among full-time men and women employees. It demonstrates, among other things, that more women work in lower paid sectors.

So, what can businesses such as AECOM do to support women in the workplace and throughout their careers? One of the most important steps we have taken in the last couple of years is to establish our Gender Alliance ERG in Europe and India. It’s supporting the business in many areas, including reducing of our gender pay gap. Part of the ERG’s 2024 strategy reflects a commitment to breaking down barriers and fostering inclusivity at AECOM. With objectives centered on awareness, gap reduction, growth in membership, and engagement, the Gender Alliance ERG aims to create an environment where everyone can thrive, regardless of gender.

Empowering working parents

A notable initiative within the Gender Alliance ERG is the Working Parents Group with 243 members across the region. Open to working parents across Europe and India, this platform serves as a space to seek advice, connect with peers and gain support. As a working mother, I know how invaluable the support of colleagues can be when transitioning back into the workplace. The group has doubled its membership to 243 members this month, showcasing its success in fostering collaboration across various ERGs. This group has great diversity of men and women and is working to encourage shared caring responsibilities.

Maternity Buddies and Working Parent’s Champions initiatives highlight the Gender Alliance ERG’s dedication to parental support. We now have more than 100 volunteers and a gender-diverse representation from across Europe and India.

As the UN strives to achieve gender equality in all aspects of life, the Gender Alliance ERG is proud to support AECOM in actively contributing to a future where everyone is respected for who they are and their expertise, irrespective of gender, at work and beyond. As a mother and working woman, it’s great to see the impact it is making at AECOM.

At a corporate level, the region’s talent programme, called EMPOWER, places a specific focus on career development and has provided the opportunity for women within our business to build skills to thrive and progress.

Hear from Louise Dougan, an associate bid director and a Working Parent Champion, about how AECOM supported her to balance her work and family life:

I joined AECOM’s Major Pursuits team for Europe & India in 2021. Whilst Belfast is my home location, I am involved in pursuits and bids which are delivered across the full portfolio and geographical range of our United Kingdom & Ireland business. I love the variety and fast-paced nature of my job. However, it does bring its challenges with juggling family life, including travel and relentless deadlines. With a bit of forward planning and co-ordination with my partner (also a full-time working parent) I am able to achieve my professional goals without it disrupting the flow of family life.

In the last 13 years, I’ve experienced the return-to-work transition after two consecutive maternity leaves, part-time working, and a return to full-time working since my children were six and seven years old. I’ve grown in confidence over the years to ask for help, both at home and at work, and not to stress about the things I can’t control, such as sick children or teacher strikes. The AECOM culture, ways of working and benefits such as Freedom to Grow, flexible and hybrid working and utilizing extra leave have been game changers for me. Whilst it’s not always perfect, I do feel that right now, the work/family life balance is finally there.

Originally published Mar 7, 2024

Author: Patrícia Vieira