Staying silent is as dangerous as ignoring health and safety hazards

Lisa Ingram, Head of Business Improvement , BHMMS
27 November 2017
Image of two female Amey employees.
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Lisa Ingram talks about the importance of the Women@Amey group, a programme developed to truly develop the careers of women throughout our organisation

A little while ago I shared a car journey with a female colleague. And while we were chatting the conversation moved to my involvement with the Women@Amey (W@A) group and the development programme that we’re launching. She was concerned that the programme might be seen as isolating or exclusive, and questioned why the group felt that women needed “special treatment”. Personally she felt that this wasn’t required and might even have a negative effect.

Admittedly, in the beginning, this had been my view as well. I’ve always considered myself as an equal to anybody else at work and didn’t need any special treatment to progress and succeed. However, getting older and having daughters has changed that view significantly. One of my reasons for getting involved in the group was a sense of responsibility to support younger women and share the benefit of my experience.  

I argued that, as a group, W@A was about making sure that women had the same opportunities to develop – whereas before, women might have relied upon their line manager’s support and sponsorship. As the journey drew to a close our views started to come a bit closer and as we said goodbye I felt satisfied that I had perhaps caused a shift in her perceptions.

Two weeks later I turned on the radio to hear the breaking scandals from Hollywood regarding the alleged use of power imbalance to intimidate and, in the worst cases, sexually assault young women. As the days have gone on claims and allegations have escalated and now seem to be reaching into every part of our society, even into the corridors of power in Government.  And social media campaigns such as #metoo are really shining a light on the extent of the problem.

This brought the conversation outlined above into sharp focus and I started to think more about how we can ensure that all women in Amey are supported, protected and heard. I believe that W@A can be that network….galvanising women and men to work together to make Amey leaders in our industry and society.

I feel sure that we can all think of instances when we have witnessed behaviour that we felt uncomfortable with, when we felt that women were being intimidated or influenced due to the imbalance of power between them and their male colleagues.

This needs to change. We need to send a message that staying silent when these types of behaviours are seen is as dangerous as staying silent when we observe breeches of Health and Safety.

We all need to be part of the change. Starting now. And that’s why I’ll passionately debate the need for the W@A network any day of the week.

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