Dr Michèle Dix CBE reflects on ICE Connects’ involvement in growing the network of female fellows.
It’s been just two years since I retired and was first approached by the ICE to speak at an ICE Connects event about my own experience of being a fellow.
The aim was to promote more women into fellowship.
At this point, only around 5% out of a total of more than 5,000 fellows were women – a shockingly low percentage, not representative of other membership grades.
The driving force of ICE Connects is to encourage not just women, but all underrepresented groups, into fellowship.
This is to help represent a diverse spectrum of people and ideas at a senior level.
While the event sparked an incredible interest, it also raised many questions.
People asked whether they were good enough to become a fellow (a seemingly typical female question).
They wondered how they could find a sponsor, particularly if from a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME).
They asked what other actions would be needed to move the dial to achieve more diverse representation.
The ICE Connects network takes action
Since then, ICE Connects has built on the growing women in fellowship initiative.
It has set up a focus group, which, among other roles and responsibilities, organises events aimed at addressing these very concerns.
Events to date have included:
- an amazing hybrid event linking around 300 colleagues across cities in the UK and beyond;
- mentoring sessions to advise on readiness and the attributes looked for in a fellow;
- help with obtaining and matching sponsors; and
- an annual, online, global event featuring world-leading women from different fields who have common learnings to share with existing and prospective fellows.
All the ICE Connects: Women in Fellowship focus group members have committed to encouraging greater female membership through sponsorship and mentoring.
Value in being a fellow
A key benefit of becoming a fellow for me was to have a network of other female leaders with whom I could share experiences outside of my own organisation.
A network of fellow friends if you will.
Although I’m glad to say it’s changing quickly, you can sometimes feel isolated if you’re the only senior woman in your team.
Not that having a network of male fellow friends hasn’t been a big benefit to me.
It has, particularly in terms of sharing learning experiences about ‘the job’ and keeping in the ‘know’.
Another benefit of obtaining fellowship is that it’s the pinnacle of being a civil engineer and/or infrastructure professional.
It’s the highest accolade within the engineering profession, and then of course, it results in an invite to the occasional party!
The dial is shifting
Since the concept of ICE Connects, we’ve started to see a marked increase in applications from women.
The number of female fellows has increased by 33% in the last two and a half years.
There are now 357 female fellows, meaning that the dial is shifting.
But, there’s still more to do to continue growing the women in fellowship network.
With this at the forefront of our minds, the ICE Connects focus group has established a series of events to further the cause.
The group is mindful of ensuring that we reach wider diverse groups beyond greater female representation.
What’s coming in 2024
The first of three events planned for 2024 is another hybrid event in February for those thinking about fellowship.
The goal is to showcase the experience of women and men in fellowship, with networking facilitating introductions with potential fellowship sponsors.
Later in the year, a special summer networking event with guest speakers will be hosted for existing and potential female fellows.
This event is planned for June 2024.
Finally, we will hold what’s becoming an ICE Connects ‘annual’ autumn event – an online inspirational event for female fellows and their guests.
An improving picture
Women constitute 22.9% of ICE members under the age of 40, reflecting the improving gender diversity of our industry in recent years.
We need to ensure this carries across, as more of these people reach fellowship-level experience.
This will help to ensure they realise their eligibility and can maximise their contributions to the future of the institution.
With still just 6.8% of fellows being women, we want to further shift the dial on this to reflect the improving diversity across the membership!
ICE Connects: growing the women in fellowship network
For more information on the February multi-venue, hybrid event, visit the corresponding link below:
Booking links for Doha, Qatar and Sydney, Australia will be available on the regional pages in due course.