Lead, innovate and build.
A blueprint for equal
opportunity in construction

8 – 11 Nov 2020
Nov 08

Day 1

10:00 UAE

Safeguarding Gender Diversity

COVID-19 has had an incalculable impact on people’s lives, business and the way it’s conducted, and economies. It is also causing a regressive effect on workplace diversity. How can we safeguard what has been built?

Research has found that women are more vulnerable to pandemic related economic effects, due to existing gender inequalities. Through this panel, experts will discuss the impact the pandemic has had on the industry and how that has affected the workforce, why it’s crucial to double down on driving towards gender diversity, and the steps construction companies can take to ensure that they are well positioned for future opportunities.

Talking points:

  • How has COVID-19 affected the construction industry and what are the biggest roadblocks the pandemic has raised in relation to diversity and inclusion? What should companies do to ensure that their workforce has equal access to quality opportunities across the region and that their talent is nurtured and motivated?
  • Maternity and paternity leave – companies need to remove themselves from the conversation about which parent has to stay home during the child’s early months by offering equal leave to both parents, so the parents can make the decision without external influences
  • Equal pay has been a hot topic in the industry on a regional and global level for years. What must the industry do to address this challenge once and for all?
  • Permanent vs freelance talent. The pandemic has left a large number of people within the industry opting for freelance work on a project-to-project basis. Is this the future and could this mean the end of discussions around ‘diversity in the office’?
  • Despite the outbreak of COVID-19, remote and flexible working are still foreign concepts to many construction firms in the region. Why is this the case and why should companies that are still fixated on a ‘time in the office’ mentality embrace change?
  • A positive and healthy office culture is key to building a diverse and inclusive workplace. Now that flexible/remote working is being practiced more by certain companies due to the outbreak of COVID-19, how can these firms ensure that culture built in the office is as supportive, and respective of boundaries, when it comes to staff working from remote locations?
  • The use of technology can bring a number of positives including better quality, less wastage, lower costs etc. Technology also has the potential to accelerate diversity in the workplace as the design and even the delivery of projects becomes ever more automated. What can be done to push the adoption of technology in an industry that is notoriously resistant to change?
  • The demand to build the structures and cities of the future is an ever present demand. What is the one thing companies should do today to ensure that they have a pipeline of talent available to tackle future project demands?

Moderator: Leanne Henderson, Founder, Hospitality Advisor at Taurima


  • Greg Kane, Chief Executive Officer for WSP in the Middle East
  • Mayada Hantash, Customer Success – Middle East Region at Autodesk
  • Marcus Taylor, CEO & Founder of FifthEdge
  • Pilar Gómez Fabra, Head of Organization, Talent and Wellbeing of ACCIONA´s infrastructure Division

Nov 09

Day 2

10:00 UAE

Shattering the Glass Ceiling

More women are choosing careers in the built environment, however data shows that the higher levels of many organisations are still heavily male dominated.

Panelists will explore why this significant imbalance exists through discussions about a comprehensive diversity commitment from sitting executives, male-dominated workplace culture, prioritising in-office presence and a lack of role models within the organisation. This panel will also discuss the importance of flexible working policies and staff retention, recruitment and promotion practices and steps firms can take to provide a clear path for women to the C-suite.

Talking points:

  • What are some of the chief reasons why the C-suite and board roles in the majority of regional and global construction firms are still either completely male or majority male dominated?
  • What changes can sitting executives put in place within their respective organisations to provide a clear path for women to aim for executive, C-suite and board roles? What is the one key change that could make all the difference in providing a clear path for women to the upper echelons of a business?
  • Are bigger AEC firms setting an example for the industry by ensuring that their workforce is diverse and balanced at the top levels?
  • Role models and mentors are key to ensuring that women progress in their respective careers. Where does the construction industry stand in this respect – are there enough mentors and role models to inspire and support women in their careers?
  • COVID-19 has forced hundreds if not thousands of companies to finally adopt remote and flexible working practices. Could this finally be the end of companies prioritising in-office presence, as a key marker to climbing the career ladder?
  • How committed are construction companies to balancing the upper rungs of their business? How many firms follow through with their D&I plans and hold themselves accountable?
  • Research has found that male-dominated workplace culture is responsible for slowing the progression of talented women and may even push talented women to seek employment elsewhere. How can this seemingly widespread challenge be addressed?

Moderator: John Shenton, Contracts Manager, Hitachi ABB Power Grids


  • Caroline Parsons, HR Director & Director – Shared Services, WSP in the Middle East
  • Claire Tromp, Director, Compass Project Consulting
  • Engi Jaber, CEO and Managing Director, Climatize Engineering Consultants
  • Morgan Tuckness, Head of Technical Services & Development, Global Hospitality, Drees & Sommer


Presentation: How can we Accelerate Gender Parity

Women constitute half the world’s population but generate 37% of global GDP. This stark analysis reveals the fact women do not have equal access to the labour market, opportunities and rights. Gender inequality is not only a pressing moral and social issue, it is also a critical economic challenge. Good progress is being made in the achievement of gender parity, however the progress is painstakingly slow. In 2015, the 193 member nations of the UN signed up to 17 Sustainable Development Goals as a call to action for all member nations. Goal five set out to empower women and girls and ensure their equal rights.

Join Chris Bernard, Global People Recruitment & Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Director at HKA for insights into the progress made, the impact of COVID-19 and the role governments, legislation and business leaders can play to truly transform and accelerate gender parity at all levels of business and society.


Presentation: All in a Day’s Work – An Inspirational Talk

Compass Project Consulting’s Claire Tromp shares her experiences in business and life including finding her way in her career, where she is now, and what she’s aiming for in the future.

Nov 10

Day 3

10:00 UAE

Building Ties with Academia

The construction industry has worked with the education sector for years, however, now is the time to build deeper partnerships and drive positive change.

With the advent of new methodologies, technologies, tools, materials and even local regulations, curriculum must be kept up to date to remain relevant. Additionally, students must be given experience with existing and new tools, all of which will enable graduates to secure the jobs they want and thrive. Organisations must also work to dispel gender myths and educate parents, so that young women are encouraged to explore career paths in the built environment. This panel seeks to explore all of the above and more.

Talking points:

  • What level of engagement do companies and industry bodies currently have with academia? Is it time for companies and industry bodies to mandate outreach to academic institutions and young people, as part of a construction professional’s day-to-day job? What more can be done to build mutually beneficial relationships?
  • What are some of pain points construction companies and graduates have, when they first start working with each other? How can these challenges be addressed?
  • How can construction firms engage directly with young people to highlight the industry as a potential career choice? Is social media the answer?
  • Does the construction industry have a sufficient pipeline of skills and talent for the next five to 10 years or is the well starting to run dry?
  • How can the construction industry influence and educate parents about unconscious bias, so that the parents then offer the same career choices to their children regardless of gender? How can the industry dispel myths about gender in the construction sector?
  • The construction industry is using more sophisticated methodologies and tools to design and deliver projects. How can the industry ensure that curriculum and courses keep pace with current trends and tools?
  • Does the construction industry have enough ambassadors and mentors to keep attracting young people to a career in the built environment?
  • Many construction firms offer internships however the value offered to students is limited in terms of the experience and knowledge they gain. How can this be improved?

Moderator: Fatima A. AlKatheeri, Member, CIPS


  • Dalia Wagdi, Sustainability Manager, Climatize Engineering Consultants
  • Iryna Akulenka, Managing Consultant, HKA
  • Joe Tabet, Founder and Managing Director, JT+Partners
  • John Shenton, Contracts Manager, Hitachi ABB Power Grids


Presentation: Making a Better Future Together

At Autodesk, we strongly believe it is our job to help inspire, engage and prepare the next generation for the ever-changing future of work and create a talent pipeline to help fill the jobs and of the future. This commitment drives our programs, partnerships, and our daily interaction with students and academia every day. Join Mayada Hantash, Customer Success – Middle East Region at Autodesk for a presentation about how the firm is engaging with young people and academia and why this is important.

Nov 11

Day 4

13:00 UAE

WIC Summit Wrap Up

In case you missed any of the sessions of the Virtual Women in Construction Summit over the past three days, an email newsletter will be sent out at 1pm on November 11, which will let you watch all the sessions.

See you next year!