Construction Engineering Masters programme, diversity at leadership level,
© Tyler Olson

For the sector to truly transform we need change and diversity at leadership level, says the Construction Engineering Masters (CEM) programme, as it calls on more women to enrol

The Construction Engineering Masters (CEM) programme was established to educate future leaders and innovators in the architecture, engineering and construction industry and provide a source of talent to drive transformation of the industry.

The degree is run by the Laing O’Rourke Centre for Construction Engineering and Technology at the University of Cambridge, with support from the Judge Business School. The centre was created to help transform the construction industry through innovation, education and technology.

Construction Engineering Masters programme

The Construction Engineering Masters programme, which aims to empower agents of change to meet the future challenges of society, is designed for experienced professionals – candidates with at least five years’ professional experience who have been identified by their organisations as emerging leaders.

To date 99 students have graduated from the CEM and benefitted from the breadth and rigour of the multidisciplinary programme. Applications for the two-year, part-time course have increased in number, but organisers are calling for more women to enrol.

Dr Kristen MacAskill, Construction Engineering Masters Course director and fellow and director of studies in engineering at St Edmund’s College, said: “It is an exciting time to work in infrastructure development. The sector is experiencing significant change through application of new technologies and modern methods.

“However, for the sector to truly transform we need change and diversity at leadership level. We would like to see more women apply to this year’s programme, and hope that applicants with a broad range of backgrounds in the sector also consider this programme as a development pathway.”

Benefits of diversity in leadership

The potential benefits of diversity in leadership and workforce are well documented. The Royal Academy of Engineering Diversity Leadership Group’s 2015 report, ‘Diversity and Inclusion in Engineering‘ stated: “One of the top three business imperatives driving diversity and inclusion work for engineering organisations (cited by 83% of organisations) was ‘enhancing capacity for innovation and creativity’”.

Maria Seco, engineering maintenance manager at Elizabeth Line TfL and current CEM student, said: “This course is flexible enough to allow me to enjoy the studies while not neglecting other responsibilities.

“As a full-time working mum, who had her second child during the programme, it was refreshing to see how naturally all my challenges were never viewed as a problem for this fantastic team of academics.

“The content of the programme and the way it is conducted makes you feel that you can achieve great things professionally, regardless of your circumstances or background. An incredibly empowering experience.”

Kate Hall, former design director of HS2 Ltd and CEM graduate 2019, added: “I believe this course is not only unique but vital for our industry. Just when you think you know how the industry works and what is best, this course gets you to question, explore, research and learn about innovative, step-change solutions and opportunities.

“I would 100% recommend this course to others in the industry. Through this course we will begin to transform the industry.”

Drop in CEM applications

Last year there was a drop in what had appeared to be an increasing trend in applications from high-potential female candidates.

Dr MacAskill is urging construction and infrastructure organisations to support diversity in the future leaders of their organisations.

MacAskill said: “Since I have been involved in the course women have consistently featured amongst the highest performers, yet they are underrepresented in numbers. We appreciate this is one factor of diversity, but it has been a strong signal to us that significant change is still needed.

“This course is challenging but don’t assume that it is not for you. I hope more women will realise their skills and talent, and consider this course as a stepping stone in their journey to pursue leadership and to advance the industry.

“The experience gained from the CEM programme really is unique – there is no other course like it.”

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