Diversity toolkit

Business leaders give unique perspectives on creating a diverse workforce

Diversity Toolkit Interview

Sara Lipscombe, Group Communications Director

Sara Lipscombe

Group Communications Director, Atkins

Atkins is one of the world’s leading design, engineering and project management consultancies, which has played an integral role in some of the world’s most technically challenging and time-critical infrastructure projects. Atkins employs approximately 18,000 staff based in 300 offices across 29 countries and has undertaken projects in over 150 countries.

Interview - The role of education

Although there is a fairly even split between boys and girls taking Physics GCSE, by A-level female participation has dropped to just one in five. Female participation in science/engineering drops even further when entering full-time employment – less than one in ten engineers are women.

Moreover with just 32,000 people of both genders taking Physics A-level, and only 20% of students in England studying mathematics to age 18, the UK is not producing enough STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) qualified people. And it’s having a direct impact on our performance as a country – the UK ranks 50th in the World Economic Forum Competitiveness Index for maths and science education.

The more businesses can work with schools to shine a light on careers in STEM subjects and to dispel myths, the more eyes we will open to the possibilities in front of them. As we were recording the podcast, Atkins’ chairman, Allan Cook, was at a school in Surrey talking to a group of students about the attraction of a career in engineering.

Over the past year or so a lot of work has been done to encourage more girls to take STEM subjects. The Government, Royal Academy of Engineering, professional institutions and groups such as SEMTA and WISE all have a number of initiatives running. Allan Cook, is working to achieve some degree of coordination so that we get focus and action, rather than be overloaded with multiple initiatives. Recently Chancellor George Osborne launched the Your Life campaign where major British companies publicly support initiatives that reach out into schools. A great example of this is JCB Academy, a new school for students from the age of 14 who are interested in business and engineering.

Atkins’ commitment to broader education has resulted in a 30% female graduate intake, which continues to climb. In addition, it is reaping the rewards of its focus on gender balance in the company and has achieved a 20% reduction in female resignations and a 1% increase in senior women in the Group this year.