Women Forging Ahead in a Man’s World

March 16, 2018 | | Conference

Boni Chileshe is the Chief Executive of AECOM, a global engineering firm of 85,000 engineers in infrastructure and energy, namely nuclear, oil & gas, LPG, solar, power generation in hydro, geothermal and other renewables. He is a trained mechanical engineer and lecturer. Mr. Chileshe is a champion of women empowerment. He also supports other disadvantaged groups like black students in the UK, sponsoring some to become graduate engineers.

Woman + Energy + Opportunity + Direction (support) = infinite, endless possibilities.
Communities will reap far greater benefits by investing in women and men, than when they invest solely in men. Communities that allow women to take bigger roles in society are more advanced.

A job is getting paid to fulfil a task. A career is an occupation with direction and purpose leading to self-enhancement and self-actualization. A career begins with a job. Careers are made and progressive.

To move forward, one must have hope. However, hope is not a strategy. Hope must be followed up with a plan. A plan is useless unless until it is acted upon. Everyone needs people to support them.  Each person needs mentors and a network, to help and support them attain their hopes and plans.

Take opportunities and be fearless. Do not be afraid to take an opportunity.

Smart goals do not begin with a wish list. They begin by asking: What are the 1-3 things that will make me more effective in my current role? One needs to understand (1) how will he/she become more effective, (2) by what means will the effectiveness be measured, and (3) by whom—an accountability partner needs to be involved, (4) are the goals aligned with personal and business objectives (should be yes to both), and lastly (5) goals need start and end times as well as regular review to measure progress. The things that can make one more effective in their current role include the right experience, training that is applied, effective communication (engage & articulate), delegating and delivering efficiently.

Learn to celebrate success.

AECOM Chief Executive Advice to Students: Nanotechnology

At the 2nd Women in Energy Awards and Conference, AECOM Chief Executive Boni Chileshe strongly recommended engineering students to ensure their studies include nanotechnology. Within the circles of the British Nuclear Institute and the British Nano Society, it is believed in the future, we will transmit energy without power lines, in the same way we communicate via Bluetooth. Eng. Chileshe also advised students to take motivation from the fact that they are the future and will revamp the biggest growth market in the world, the energy sector.

Avoiding Sticky Floor and Glass Ceilings

The difference between the woman who has great potential and ability and does not succeed and the one who advances her career past her peers, beyond knowing their jobs well, is assertiveness. In many cases the former did not speak up, even when she was right.

The inability to assert oneself will hold back a brilliant woman and impede her career advancement. Being assertive does not equate to being abrasive. Mr. Chileshe advises women to speak up being mindful not to put others down. A women can successfully address a challenge she sees by asking, “Have you considered xyz?”

Mr. Chileshe’s advice to women is to put their hand up and speak up to their ability to complete the task in consideration. Generally, women reads more than their male counterparts. However, a woman’s fear that she will be perceived as being hysterical or moody can be interpreted as an inability to articulate a message. Another obstacle that holds back women and people of colour is accepting the cultural inheritance—failing to challenge job advertisements which are psychologically biased toward men, because they are generally authored by men.

At appraisals, the evaluation team may subconsciously choose to protect a woman from her male-dominated work environment rather than support her. In such situations, women can be each other’s advocates, especially when serving on promotion evaluation panels. Women can propel each other to avoid sticky floors and glass ceilings. Lastly, working mothers and primary care givers must be their own advocates for proper work-life balance.

The Value of Diversity

Women have far reaching emotional intelligence and empathy. On a board, this is seen in the way they drive the business, define success and communicate how policies are articulated. In an all-male board, things are done quickly. However, a board with gender diversity will more keenly consider the implications on its decisions. The lack of women in an organization in any industry, and not specifically in C-level suites, means a lack of the different ways of thinking which women bring to a sector in terms of aligning policies, organization, structure and benefits sharing.



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