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International Women’s Day: How to become a senior leader

In 2016, 21% of UK senior roles were held by women. With a one per cent decline in this statistic since 2015, I am interested in understanding how we can get more women in senior leadership roles.


Encouraging and empowering women to strive for and secure senior leadership positions is critical if we want to create a diverse and forward thinking workforce. I believe that the best candidate should be selected for the job, however; there’s still a clear gap between men and women when it comes to reaching senior positions.

WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff has made a commitment to significantly increase the proportion of women in senior leadership positions by 2020; but how can we help to make sure this happens? Working for an organisation which has an awareness of such issues, encourages open discussion, and where gender equality is part of the business strategy, is something that I am glad to be a part of.

I am keen to play my part in encouraging and empowering women and that’s where WSP | Parsons Brinkerhoff’s Women in Leadership (WiL) group comes in. WiL is a platform for all colleagues to understand how we can educate, motivate and empower women to aim for and reach senior positions. I joined the WiL committee last year and since then have taken an active role in organising and hosting personal development and networking events in the South West. I am passionate about providing opportunities for others and really enjoy the diversity the role has given me.

Our most recent event took place on 1st March 2017 and focused on ‘what does it take to become a senior leader’. The session gave me and 30 other women from across the South West the opportunity to hear from three motivating speakers including Jane Richards, recently appointed head of structures at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, Alison Hayward, senior manager for regeneration and economic development at East Devon District Council and Hamish Hall, head of water development at WSP | Parsons Brinkerhoff.

Our speakers outlined their perspectives of leadership and gave tips on what it takes to become a leader. Here are some of the key points that I took away from the session;

  • Have the confidence in your abilities and don’t be afraid to strive for the top;
  • Stand out from the crowd by developing your communication, reasoning and analysis skills;
  • Create time to understand others, be empathetic and learn to put yourself in someone else’s shoes;
  • Understand your teams' strengths and look after their wellbeing;
  • Celebrate successes; and
  • Respect, encourage and empower others.

We have found these events to be extremely successful as they provide an open environment for women to get together, share tips and hopefully leave feeling empowered and excited to take the next steps in their careers. I personally really enjoy meeting new ladies from across the South West, learning from our speakers about how they have progressed in their careers, and understanding how I can take on board their tips to develop further.

Plans are underway for our next event and we hope to tie this in with National Women in Engineering Day in June. For more details please contact jemma.newsome@wspgroup.com

Jemma Newsome is an environmental consultant at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff