The ICE Christmas event highlighted the key role that women play in the construction industry.
An all-female panel of speakers have discussed the role of civil engineers in tackling climate change at the annual ICE fellows’ Christmas reception.
The speakers on the night were Isabel Coman, ICE Fellow and director of engineering & asset strategy at Transport for London, and Professor Dina D’Ayala, ICE Fellow, professor at UCL and UNESCO chair on disaster risk reduction & resilience engineering.
The event was used to highlight the key role that women play in the construction industry today, noting that they're underrepresented in accolades given for their contribution.
The purpose was to encourage more female civil engineers to apply for fellowship, and more young women to consider entering the civil engineering profession.
The reception was held at the ICE HQ, One Great George Street (OGGS).
'Civil engineers play a vital role'
Speaking in the Great Hall at OGGS, where UNESCO was first founded in 1945, Professor D’Ayala noted the important role that all civil engineers play in helping to tackle the climate emergency.
Highlighting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as championed by ICE President Keith Howells, Professor D’Ayala emphasised the fact that the construction industry is one of the largest contributors to CO2 emissions.
As a result, it will be impossible to achieve net zero by 2050 without civil engineers playing a key role.
She also shared some examples of how the profession is engaging in devising more sustainable forms and processes of construction.
Professor Dina D’Ayala giving a talk about sustainability in the construction industry.
Professor D’Ayala explained: “It is only through drastic change in the construction industry that we can create a sustainable world that works for all. Civil engineers play a vital role in creating this reality.
Only through collaboration between our fellow civil engineers, as well as with other professions and sectors across the supply chain, both at the very local, and global scale, are we to achieve the UN SDGS and a net zero world by 2050.”
Professor D’Ayala added that the ICE, with its wealth of knowledge and worldwide outreach, is in a unique position to promote and foster the changes needed.
Under-representation in the industry
Women make up only 16% of overall membership at the institution, with female fellows making up only 6% of the fellowship cohort despite their “huge contribution” to the industry, explained Katherine Etheridge, regional director for ICE London, South-East and East of England.
She said the event was an opportunity to celebrate the important contribution female fellows make to civil engineering.
“We hope that we can inspire more women at the heights of their career to consider ICE fellowship and encourage more young women to consider entering the civil engineering profession.
It’s an exciting time to join, as we look to build more sustainable and resilient infrastructure that the world needs,” Etheridge said.
Fellowship: part of the bigger picture
Aware of the disparity in female fellowship representation, the ICE has been working to increase its numbers at this highest grade of membership, notably the ‘ICE Connects: Women in Fellowship’ programme, launched in 2021.
Otherwise known simply as ‘ICE Connects’, the programme looks to address this under-representation by connecting the cohort of women already in fellowship with one another.
Together, they address some of the challenges around the uptake of fellowship among female civil engineers and infrastructure professionals.
This began in October 2021 when the then ICE President, Rachel Skinner, brought together female fellows from around the world to discuss experiences and hear from inspirational women about the importance of sharing their stories to encourage others.
Since then, ICE Connects has hosted a number of workshops and networking opportunities to bring together current and prospective fellows.
The aim is to develop a programme of activities to offer the broad range of women in our profession the opportunity to engage with each other and with the breadth of ICE activity, where their voices can only help further our purpose as we address the huge challenges facing the world today.
There has been a 14% increase in the number of female fellows since the programme was launched and this number is set to increase further.