Creating change for women working in male dominated industries: Sonya Byers, CEO of Woman in Transport  

Sonya Byers, is a woman on a mission. She is the CEO of Women in Transport, a non-profit that empowers women in the transport industry to maximise their potential.  

Sonya is someone who loves what she does. Passion and enthusiasm radiates from her, and if she found a way to bottle it, I would buy it! 

Directing her own career path, she has landed exactly where she is meant to be. Not always taking the obvious and easy route to get there, she knew what was important to her and invested in the things that matter most. In both her work and personal life. Sonya has made her own destiny. Proposing herself to be the CEO of Women in Transport, despite the role not there for the taking. Creating her own career path for something she was so truly passionate about.  

“I love my job, it gives me purpose and the community is amazing. There is so much work to do, but we’re making a positive difference. If we help even one woman have a safe space to share her experiences, somewhere to help progress her career and give her the visibility to get there. Then we’ve done our job!

Sonya’s recent achievements include great feedback from initiatives like Advance mentoring programme available to all Women in Transport members. Regardless of level or discipline across transport and infrastructure. 

Women in Transport also offers a virtual leadership development programme – Lead. The eight-month programme has seen women participate on holiday, on maternity leave and with babes in arms. Nearly half of the women participating in the Lead programme so far have been promoted. 

It really is quite wonderful to see these incredible women supporting each other and inspiring others. They were already awesome; we’re just helping them shine brighter. My hope is that we continue to break down barriers for women to have equal access to development opportunities and progression.

As the Women in Transport website tells us, women still remain underrepresented in the transport sector accounting for only 26 per cent of workers. So, it wasn’t surprising to hear that Sonya began her career in transport by chance, rather than by choice. 

Having no idea about the vast breadth of careers within transport, Sonya took a job working in a traffic survey team. A short-term plan at the time, whilst looking into other options when she had finished her degree in European Business. 

Going on to become a transport planner, Sonya started to enjoy both the variety and great work culture around her. Making her think for the first time that this could be a long-term career option. Even now,  Sonya recognises how unique this experience was and that sadly it wasn’t the case for everyone coming into the industry, especially women. 

By the age of 27, Sonya was offered a technical directorship role with an offer to double her salary. Despite the temptation, she refused as it lacked that nurturing and learning culture she thrived. Over time she began to witness behaviour she wasn’t comfortable with, and slowly became more aware of the issues women faced when working in male dominated environments. That’s when she came across Women in Transport at an event and signed up. 

“I have to say I was a bit intimidated to join my first Women in Transport event, but I needn’t have worried. I was welcomed with open arms and now these women are incredible lifelong friends and I have the privilege of leading it.” 

Women in Transport started 18 years ago, and Sonya became a member three years into it starting. Joining the board in 2013 as the Events Chair building her confidence in her ability to keep going 

I always knew I had the network to fall back on. Even when I faced difficult times. When I was made redundant, people in the network offered help and support. I was so grateful for that. I knew it was going to be hard, but I knew I would be ok. And that is because of the Women in Transport network.” 

The need to have a positive work culture became even more prominent when she was later diagnosed with a long-term medical condition she never knew she had. Mental and physical health is carried over into her personal life and as parkrun Global Trustee she participates most Saturdays and Sundays. A family affair where she is joined by her husband, brother, Mum, Dad, and 3 year old daughter (who is also known to run 2k!). 

With so many hats to wear, I can’t help but admire and wonder how Sonya manages to find the motivation, energy and time to balance so much.  

“I haven’t got a magic solution. Women can have it all, but not all at the same time. Its not easy. parkrun for me is important. It’s important to my own wellbeing. Something for myself as well as doing something with my family, so I make time for it. We will always have a guilt about something and it’s a constant balancing act. But its important that the choices we make reflect what’s right for now. Some things are going to drop because of prioritising certain aspects of your life, and that’s ok.  

 

If you would like to know more about Women in Transports Advance mentoring and LEAD programme please visit: 

https://www.womenintransport.com/mentoring-advance-2024 

https://www.womenintransport.com/lead  

 

Read more she shares here

Creating change for women working in male dominated industries: Ailie MacAdam, President at Bechtel Corporation

Ailie MacAdam is a walking billboard for women and girls within the engineering industry. Showcasing accolades and achievements that continue to stretch throughout her career. Engineering runs through her family tree, so you may think she was destined to follow in her family’s footsteps. But despite Ailie’s Father and God Father both being engineers, she hadn’t always set her eyes on this career choice. So, how did she find her way to becoming a Director on the board for one of the biggest construction companies in the world?

I recently spent time talking to Ailie to find out more about how her incredible career in engineering started, and what helped get her to the top as a woman in a male dominated industry. Finding out her thoughts on unconscious bias, what she thinks individuals and employers can do to help accelerate gender diversity, and her opinion on social value as a STEM ambassador.

Supporting the need for female representation, Ailie begun by telling me “you can’t be what you can’t see, and the more I can give to help reflect the visibility of potential career paths and stories the better.”  As a child Ailie had representation from her father of the potential career paths within engineering, so it surprised me that engineering wasn’t her first career choice. Explaining “I originally wanted to be a doctor and do medicine, but luckily I’d done awfully in my Physic A level exam so I had to look at what else I could do with the skills I had.” After spending a few weeks with her God Father on a refinery in Southampton Ailie was hooked. “I liked the thought of taking  a raw material and then, with unit steps of either physical or chemical processing, coming out with a product at the end that was useful for people.”

The relevance of her Father being an engineer was that there was no bias. It didn’t matter that she was a girl. Ailie told me “If parents don’t have an informed understanding, visibility or awareness of how terrific a career in engineering can be, then it can influence their children’s career selection.”

Ailie’s humble nature was portrayed throughout our conversation explaining that she never felt particularly ambitious (but she hates to lose!), making it clear that her biggest goal is always to add value and do the best she can, “if I don’t feel like I am doing that, then I will go and create another challenge.”

But with great challenges comes great obstacles. “Both men and women have moments of crisis of confidence. From the most senior employee to incoming graduates. My advice would be to just remember that, it is normal”. In these situations, Ailie says we must recognise when this is happening and know there is always a way through it. Always remember that the sun will come up tomorrow. Whilst it feels at the time that it is the biggest thing today, you can only do your best. As long as you know that, that is all you can do, and the sun will always come up tomorrow”.

Since Ailie first began her career, she has seen the industry change dramatically. Whilst it is more inclusive, there is still a large gender gap that needs accelerating. When working on Crossrail Ailie initiated a very intentional decision to increase the number of women working on the project. With a team of roughly 600 people, it was recognised that more diversity would mean better performance. High potential, diverse female candidates were identified. Looking at potential over experience. Identifying and prioritising strengths such as energy levels, approach, collaboration, and teamwork skills as well as background. Women weren’t penalised for not having 10-15 years’ experience. “The amount of diverse people that came out of Crossrail was fantastic, and women blossomed.”  Ailie begun to corelate data that evidenced the value of diverse teams bringing more innovation, productivity and held better success rates.

A challenge we face as an industry is to not only provide women with opportunities but to enable women to maintain a career. Data shows the number of women leaving roles increases when in their 30’s, often due to caring commitments. In Australia and Chile, Bechtel run the 10-week STEM returners programme that helps encourage those who have been out of work. Giving them time to understand the company, the role, and re acclimatise to work again. Whilst the programme is for both men and women, it is mostly taken up by women who join with common fears and concerns. It was explained that these confidence issues soon begin to fade and as times passes, and you see the confidence build. “It’s great job satisfaction.”

With companies supporting both men and women and confronting and challenging unconscious bias in the workplace, we also need to consider future generations. I was interested to hear Ailie’s thoughts as a STEM ambassador herself, whether she felt construction companies should hold more onus and responsibility amongst a local community to help reflect representation amongst their teams and do more with schools to help reach younger audiences?

“Absolutely right, the difference social value activity gives you is that the engagement with schools and children allows them to tangibly see the profession, representation, and careers available. There is no replacement for seeing it with your own eyes.”

Ailie continued to explain how social value has a lot more recognition now. Sharing an example of a Bechtel scheme in America, one of the first activities undertaken was to understand the challenges within the local communities. “By understanding the community and what makes it beat is really important. The more you understand the bigger the impact you can have as a project. Social value not only adds value to a community but is motivating for our teams too. Supporting local people helps keep real talent to do a job they feel motivated to do.”

With so much potential when it comes to gender diversity, Ailie spoke about setting do-able and intentional targets, setting targets helps focus the mind on what we need to do differently to achieve the targets – iterating around the status quo won’t get us there –  You can then begin to hold yourself and others accountable to progress the actions and interventions required to achieve the targets. In Saudi Arabia, Bechtel has unleashed some incredible female talent whereby over 30% of their employees are women. “They are nailing it. They have an unleashed energy, motivation and approach and they want to prove themselves. It’s fantastic to see and it’s uplifting the entire workforce”.

This generation of new ideas does ignite some challenges. As we begin to permanently work in a more digital working space, engaging with colleagues might not be the same as it once was. Whilst it does mean we aren’t restricted by location, Ailie highlighted “we are all struggling to know what the right balance is. Flexibility is so important to people, but we also need person to person contact too. Partly because of the role and partly because of culture building. If we want to stop unconscious bias that needs to come from face-to-face interaction. With people being integrated and mixed.”

It was refreshing and motivating speaking with Ailie, and as a last final question I wanted to know if you could give your 16 year old self one piece of advice what would it be, she replied “don’t revise for that physics exam, because otherwise I would be in medicine and not engineering and I love engineering.”

 

 

International Womens Day

Embracing Equity

March 8th sees the celebration of International Women’s Day and as part of Copper Consultancy’s Connecting Women campaign, we asked both men and women across male dominated industries such as infrastructure, energy and construction to tell us what equity meant to them. How does it differ from equality and how are people embracing equity in their role, scheme, project and business?

With 88% of our respondents acknowledging they could identify the difference between equality and equity, we could see clear themes around individuality, opportunity and resource. Commenting on how equality is a “one size fits all” approach to delivering equal opportunity and resources, compared to embracing equity, which Delecia Reddy from Nicholas O’Dwyer describes as:

“Endeavoring to offer everyone equal access to opportunities, resources, and support that are proportionate to their needs. This may include providing accommodations for individuals with disabilities, granting flexible work arrangements, or investing in training and development programs to assist individuals in overcoming obstacles to advancement”.

Equity frames an individual’s personal circumstances and acknowledges that when given the same opportunities, we may not all begin at the same starting point. Various factors can hold a person back such as gender, low income, and race. Embracing equity is about putting things in place to enable everyone to start at the same starting point.

But what does this look like in practice?

Examples shared reflected that representation, understanding and education were important factors to consider when looking at ways to embrace equity.

People want their personal circumstances to be understood, so companies are rightly taking the time to ensure they understand what barriers may be faced when tackling such personal matters. Including Sarah Styan – Binnies who is attending lunch and learn sessions on neurodiversity explaining:

“People with neurodiversity can find the traditional work environment challenging, and it is now being revealed that the number of females with autism is underdiagnosed. We are encouraged to understand and appreciate how all different personality types are needed to build better teams to deliver sustainable solutions for our clients.” 

Examples shared included letting a mother take time out of her day to express breastmilk, paternity vs maternity leave explaining how “same sex couples may be disadvantaged in the amount of leave available to them” to delivering better support networks around sensitive topics such as miscarriages and menopause.

Lisa Ingram from Amey explained how their new menopause policy:
helps managers understand the challenges that may be faced by women and to help generate conversations about reasonable adjustments”.

In male dominated industries representation was key. People want to see themselves represented, supported and celebrated within the business by both colleagues and employers. Including female first aiders, better diversity amongst teams, women in senior leadership roles and advocating female awareness days like today.

Whilst great progress is being made Charlotte Usher from RSK mentions:
We can’t embrace equity unless we acknowledge the inequities that exist so that they can be solved. Part of that is finding what these inequities are, and the rest is giving people the confidence to speak up to senior staff”.

If success looks at the acknowledgement of the inequities that exist and solving them then Adam Doxford, Head of Environmental at Enviresearch is a great example of that. As part of this years theme, he told me how he has taken a moment to self-educate himself on equity, whilst working from home swaddling his sleepy newborn baby. Working from home means he can help share caring responsibilities. Equity wasn’t a term he had come across before but strongly believed in its need, saying:

Social stereotypes about women’s and men’s roles in society harm us all. My wife is very career driven, and I would like to give her the opportunities to advance her career when she returns to work by taking an equal or greater share of the caring responsibilities.”

Adam has now pledged to “encourage female co-workers to seek out opportunities that may not have historically been something that they had access to, or may not have had the confidence to pursue due to their circumstances or historical lack of support. Enabling women to seek out career development opportunities that fit in with any caring responsibilities they may have.”

So what will be your pledge today? #EmbraceEquity

If you would like to know more or get involved with our Connecting Women campaign, please get in touch at Gemma.Lloyd@copperconsultancy.com

Happy International Women’s Day from everyone at Copper!

 

Copper Consultancy hosted an online panel focusing on the role the transport sector could play in a modal shift in the Transport East region. The webinar, chaired by Gemma Lloyd, Account Director for Transport, discussed active travel implementation, decarbonisation, road inclusivity and safety – featuring insight from Sarah Jane Crawford (Network Rail), Esme Yuill (Transport East), Marny Moruzzi (Mott Macdonald) and Laura Nelson (Copper).

The session discussed the need for localised and inclusive engagement, to better understand the daily transport-related barriers that people living in the region faced. As mentioned by Esme Yuill, the Transport East region is extremely rural, meaning that the accessibility of town centres by walking or public transport is even lower than the rural average. All the panellists agreed that there is a need for an integrated transport plan in the region, focusing especially on reducing car dependency.

Understanding how people use different transport links, and the needs of different communities, can play an important role in changing the way projects are being delivered. Sarah Jane Crawford emphasised the importance of listening to people, providing an example of a rail connection removed during Covid which was known to everyone in the area as the “school train”. The importance and value of local knowledge provided by stakeholders were emphasised during the panel, as many local residents and stakeholders can become project advocates if only they are listened to.

In addition to this, there is a need to make train journeys more appealing to the local community. A stable journey, meaning a reliable train to reduce ‘dead time’ is important to entice people to use public transport. By making the journey time reliable it can result in a more comfortable experience with public transport.

Marny Moruzzi who is Vice President of Women in Transport noted that “we need to pay more attention to community-based initiatives” pointing out that with the number of big projects in the region, engaging with local towns and villages is crucial. Marny rightly mentioned that there is a reason why people enjoy living in rural areas and that sometimes too much development can cause resentment as it could spoil the rurality of the region. That’s why communication and localised engagement are crucial when developing new transport improvements, as well as when thinking of proposed projects.

Another point discussed was the transition to electric vehicles, given how many people need to drive in the East region, to be able to access work, school and health facilities. Esme Yuill highlighted the various issues associated with chargers’ placement, firstly, on often historic streets, and secondly considering the commercial and political challenges.

All panellists agreed that there is no one thing that will be able to mitigate the unique challenges that the region currently faces. As a third of people in the East live in rural areas, it is especially important to improve transport in those areas. Transport East has been developing a Centre of Excellence for rural mobility, focusing on the challenges and opportunities associated with transport in the region.

 

To watch Copper Consultancy’s webinar on Connecting the Rural Areas, click here (you may need to register in order to be able to access the recording.)

Our Senior Account Manager Laura Cunliffe-Hall explores why women’s safety must be placed at the heart of venues and public spaces through improved placemaking.

This International Women’s Day, it’s imperative to reflect not only on progress made regarding women’s rights, but on how we can continue to improve women’s experiences of public spaces.

Initiatives across the UK are seeking to take positive steps to respond to urgent concerns surrounding women’s safety. In Leeds, Women’s Night Safe Space pilot, a joint safety bus initiative between Women’s Lives Leeds and Safer Leeds, will be piloted in Dortmund Square over the next three weekends and will be a  space where women can come if they feel concerned, unsafe, unwell or vulnerable. The initiative responded to a survey by Leeds Women’s Safety in May 2021, which identified that 50% of women of all ages, from all parts of the city, often or always felt unsafe in the city centre at night.

This bus pilot initiative follows the recent launch of the Home Office Enough campaign, designed to challenge perpetrators of street harassment, unwanted touching and coercive control. In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan has also announced additional funding, on top of a £60m investment in tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG), to help make venues and public spaces in the capital safer for women at night. Lighting and public realm improvement are also essential to improving how women can fully participate safely in public spaces.

A #LighttheWay campaign in Clyde is calling on Glasgow City Council to reverse its position on park lighting and light the main routes in Glasgow city centre parks to keep people safe at night. One of the key motivations behind this campaign is to enable women’s full participation within public spaces. Placemaking is the key to unlocking this.

Better placemaking can help us #BreaktheBias and ensure that women’s safety is protected across public life. Safety must be given prime consideration while shaping our cities and towns from the outset.

Steps we can take to make our spaces more inclusive and safer for women:

  • Any planning or placemaking process must include and amplify women’s voices – giving women and girls a seat at the table makes it easier to understand the challenges we face in public spaces and shows a genuine commitment to a dialogue of improvement.
  • Safety audits – providing a detailed analysis of potential risks within developments and planning applications that could have an impact on people’s safety. Dr Ellie Cosgrave, a lecturer in urban innovation and policy at University College London, has identified the need to understand the “social dynamics” of an area by conducting surveys, speaking to people, and implementing changes – a detailed safety audit could encompass these factors.
  • Better lighting – Arup have published reports and research on topics entitled ‘Cities Alive: Rethinking the Shades of Night’ and ‘Making Cities Safer for Women and Girls’ focusing on how the way light bounces off different road colours, surface finishes or the brightness of the area outside of the concentrated beam of light can affect our perceptions of brightness and safety in a space. Better lighting of spaces to reflect women’s lived experiences will positively improve how we are able to participate in public spaces.
  • Improving landscaping and external visibility – natural surveillance and landscaping spaces strategically not only improves access to nature, which is important for both physical and mental wellbeing, but provides improved visibility that makes outside spaces safer.
  • Regular maintenance of shared spaces– Funding to maintain and also upgrade shared spaces, across both developments and the wider public realm, projects an image of community and collective civic pride, as opposed to neglect, making spaces more egalitarian and removing the possibility of being isolated or ‘cut off’ that can create situations of vulnerability.

Further investment is required to generate tangible long-term change to make women safer.

By working collaboratively to address these genuine concerns relating to women’s safety, developers, planners and policymakers can look to future proof our communities.

It is essential that all of us in the infrastructure and development sectors work together to ensure that women’s, and all of our safety, is put at the heart of the placemaking process.

This #IWD2022, we must recognise the need to facilitate placemaking and safe space initiatives that enable and improve women’s participation across our public spaces.

To find out more about collaborative placemaking and improving safety, please contact Laura Cunliffe-Hall, Senior Account Manager within Copper’s Economic Development practice at Laura.Cunliffe-Hall@copperconsultancy.com

Economic development aims to create stronger communities and sustainable economies – both objectives which most people support. So why do attempts to transform towns, cities and regions sometimes face apathy or even resistance from the very people they are intended to benefit?

In collaboration with the Association of Women in Property, Copper Consultancy’s Group Account Director, Fiona Woolston, will showcase our latest research into how the public view investment in places and how these findings can be used to improve project engagement and communications. The webinar will include a case study of Copper’s work on The London Resort, a world-class, sustainable, next generation entertainment resort.

The webinar will close with a Q&A session and an opportunity for attendees to share their good and bad experiences of public engagement and communications to promote best practice learning among the group.

Open to members and non-members, please register here.

Our Account Manager Laura Cunliffe-Hall explores how urban planners and policymakers can make our public realm and spaces safer and more liveable for women in the first of a blog series following on from our ‘Reshaping Towns and Cities in a post-COVID world’ webinar.

A recent survey for UN Women UK found that 80% of women of all ages in the UK said they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces. This statistic relays a stark reality – more needs to be done to ensure that our public spaces are made safer for women.

Much of our public realm is designed by and for men. Currently, as a society we are participating in a wider cultural conversation around the threat of violence against women and fears around women’s safety following on from the tragic murder of Sarah Everard while she was walking home in South London.

As women, we are taught to internalise fears regarding our safety from a young age and adapt our behaviour to avoid ‘risk’ associated with our participation in public spaces. These fears, alongside the way towns and cities have been designed, have a direct impact on our experiences of public spaces. Such experiences must also be understood from an intersectional perspective. Our ability to enjoy and feel comfortable in public space is inherently unequal. This must change – our public spaces must be fit for purpose for everyone. Safety should be given prime consideration while shaping our cities and towns from the outset.

As outlined in our previous blog, public spaces are continuing to evolve in response to social distancing, sustainability and economic requirements resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. We have an opportunity to use this moment to reshape and future-proof our towns and cities. This demonstrates appetite for reflection and improvement related to projects being brought forward across the housing, transport and infrastructure sectors, with 45% of our ‘Reshaping Towns and Cities in a post-COVID world’ webinar attendees highlighting that our industry should completely overhaul upcoming plans and projects to help the economic recovery of our towns and cities post-pandemic.

With this in mind, there is no better time for developers, planners and policymakers to ensure that women’s, and all of our safety, is put at the heart of the placemaking process.

Steps we can take to make our spaces more inclusive and safer for women:

  • Any planning or placemaking process must include and amplify women’s voices – giving women and girls a seat at the table makes it easier to understand the challenges we face in public spaces and shows a genuine commitment to a dialogue of improvement.
  • Safety audits – providing a detailed analysis of potential risks within developments and planning applications that could have an impact on people’s safety. Dr Ellie Cosgrave, a lecturer in urban innovation and policy at University College London, has identified the need to understand the “social dynamics” of an area by conducting surveys, speaking to people, and implementing changes – a detailed safety audit could encompass these factors.
  • Better lighting – Arup have published reports and research on topics entitled ‘Cities Alive: Rethinking the Shades of Night’ and ‘Making Cities Safer for Women and Girls’ focusing on how the way light bounces off different road colours, surface finishes or the brightness of the area outside of the concentrated beam of light can affect our perceptions of brightness and safety in a space. Better lighting of spaces to reflect women’s lived experiences will positively improve how we are able to participate in public spaces.
  • Improving landscaping and external visibility natural surveillance and landscaping spaces strategically not only improves access to nature, which is important for both physical and mental wellbeing, but provides improved visibility that makes outside spaces safer.
  • Regular maintenance of shared spaces– Funding to maintain and also upgrade shared spaces, across both developments and the wider public realm, projects an image of community and collective civic pride, as opposed to neglect, making spaces more egalitarian and removing the possibility of being isolated or ‘cut off’ that can create situations of vulnerability.

Further investment is required to generate tangible long-term change

Government’s Safer Streets Fund will invest £45m in local measures such as better lighting and CCTV, alongside controversial methods relating to undercover police in nightspots. However, there is a consensus that further investment and a greater commitment to longer-term change is required to make women feel safer across our towns and cities. This is also a global issue – almost 9 in 10 women in some cities around the world feel unsafe in public spaces.

By working collaboratively to address these genuine concerns relating to women’s safety, developers, planners and policymakers can look to reshape our towns and cities for the better. We need to work together to ensure that protected characteristics and the interests of marginalised groups are taken into account and that we integrate people’s lived experience at the earliest stages of urban design and planning conversations.

Above all, it’s time we improve women’s freedom and ability to access our public spaces – without fear.

To find out more about ensuring collaborative placemaking, safety and social value can positively shape a development and generate engagement and advocacy,  please contact Laura Cunliffe-Hall, Account Manager within Copper’s Economic Development practice at Laura.Cunliffe-Hall@copperconsultancy.com

Laura Cunliffe-Hall reflects on an action-packed three years at Copper Consultancy and offers insight into life at Copper working on some of the biggest infrastructure and development projects in the country.

You’ve been at Copper for three years now – congratulations. What first attracted you to working at Copper?

Thank you – I can’t believe it’s gone so fast! I started at Copper as a Junior Account Executive after completing my Master’s degree in English and American Literature. I’d previously interned in Public Relations and I was determined to work in a communications, public-facing role, combining my love of current affairs and politics with writing and social media.

I wanted a job where my contribution would make a positive difference to people’s lives – and what better way to do that than helping bring forward projects that shape communities for the better.

What do you enjoy about working in communications and at Copper in particular?

I hate being bored – and one thing is for sure, you are never bored if you work in communications!

Comms is a very fast-paced industry. It’s about providing excellence and best-practice for your clients and being at the top of your game. As the policy landscape is always shifting, this impacts the type of projects we work on, how we articulate our projects and consistently generates accompanying new communications challenges.

How we speak to one another and communicate is so important. Getting messaging right and generating the right type of engaging content is key to the success of a project or communications campaign. Being part of this is extremely rewarding – the work that we do means something and I genuinely believe it is changing the society that we live in for the better.

Social value is also intrinsically linked to the work that we do. Understanding how to capture social value and promote the positive impacts of our projects is more important now than ever before. We help mobilise client teams to deliver positive and sustainable social change – whether this is through working on energy projects helping to reach net zero goals, economic development projects investing in placemaking or the public realm or transport projects that keep us connected.

Working at Copper is also a pleasure because of our people. Our talented and dedicated team help us attract top clients that are doing important work in regeneration and economic development – and we have an opportunity to spread the benefits of these to communities across the country.

How has your job role evolved across your three years at Copper?

When I first started working at Copper, it was a highly formative training experience, where I gained exposure to a range of projects across the infrastructure, construction and property sectors. I was often the first point of contact for projects, operating contact centres where I would liaise directly with members of the public and address their questions about specific projects.

Research and auditing were also key aspects of my role – I especially enjoyed learning about political developments across the country and improving my understanding of the work carried out by local authorities, central government and our clients.

As I’ve developed and now as an Account Manager, my role is a lot more strategic. I develop and implement strategies for clients, devise creative communications campaigns and work on building advocacy for the vital work our projects are doing and drawing attention to the benefits they can provide for local people. I also manage project teams of consultants and line manage individual team members, working on their specific strengths to bring out the best in them.

Copper puts great emphasis on its consultants building their own professional brand and cultivating a long-term career in the wider sector. You’re supported by a team with multi-disciplinary experience every step of the way in order to achieve this. I feel very lucky to have been able to develop as a consultant in a nurturing and supportive environment.

As a member of Copper’s Economic Development team, I help to shape our business offering, using my strong understanding of regional and national policy to influence the way plans and projects are perceived.

I’ll be hosting a webinar in mid-February on ‘Reshaping Towns and Cities in a post-COVID world’, focused around this key question of how the planning system can function effectively to make communities safer, more sustainable and help reduce economic inequality across the country in the aftermath of the Coronavirus crisis. Watch this space for more!

How would you sum up your time at Copper in three words?

Educational, challenging and exciting!

What would your advice be for someone who wants to work in communications?

Firstly, definitely go for it! Make sure you do your research and find a role that fits your values and will allow you to achieve your ambitions.

Also remember that you never stop learning – go to as many training courses, networking events and panels as you can. In order to successfully communicate and target your work to resonate with people, you need to keep in touch with what’s going on both in the industry and politically, and always strive to be better.

Finally, remember that communications is always about your audiences! Tailor your approach to different opportunities by working out what your particular audience needs to hear. And get in touch – myself and my Copper colleagues are always keen to mentor and assist young people looking to progress in their communications careers.

If you’re considering a career in communications, public affairs and stakeholder engagement and have any questions, please get in touch via email at Laura.Cunliffe-Hall@copperconsultancy.com, on Twitter @LauraHall1995 or message me on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/laura-cunliffe-hall/ 

In 2020 transport infrastructure policy was not just shaped by the Government, but also by a series of landmark legal decisions. The decisions taken by the courts in 2020 will have ramifications into 2021 and beyond.

In February of last year (2020) the Court of Appeal ruled that Heathrow Airport Ltd (HALs) proposed expansion plans would be unlawful as the previous transport minister had failed to consider the government’s obligations as outlined by the Paris Agreement in the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS). Fast forward to Wednesday 16 December 2020 and the Supreme Court overturned this decision, in what has been labelled as a massive step backwards by environmental activists around the world. This decision comes in the same month that the UK’s Climate Change Committee produced a roadmap for how the UK can sustainably reduce its carbon emissions over the next 30 years – which refers to “[no] net increase in UK airport capacity, so that any expansion is balanced by reductions in capacity elsewhere in the UK.”1

Whilst the Supreme Court’s ruling does not grant consent for the proposed third runway, it does set the precedent for HAL progressing with the proposals, and arguably for other developers too. But this isn’t the first instance of proposed transport infrastructure being called into question in relation to the anticipated environmental impacts. There’s Transport Action Networks legal challenge against the Government’s second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2) and the ongoing legal case launched over the existing Energy National Policy Statements (E-NPS), in addition to ongoing objections with regards to individual projects across the nation.

The point of view of many is that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the way that people interact with transport across the UK and further afield, and that the environmental benefits of the nation slowing down are undeniable. However, the BBC reported in July that “holiday bookings ‘explode[d]’ as travel restrictions ease[d]”2.

Copper’s Public attitudes to net zero emissions in the UK research found that the nation agrees that more needs to be done to achieve net zero by 2050, but with that concluded that small steps need to be established so that local communities and individuals can easily align themselves with a roadmap and feel a part of the solution.

Whilst the national narrative is important, it’s clear that ongoing engagement surrounding achievable, relatable and demonstrable actions is going to be imperative in inspiring the behaviour change required to make a significant difference to the future of transport infrastructure in a net zero environment.

1 – UK’s Climate Change Committee – The-Sixth-Carbon-Budget-The-UKs-path-to-Net-Zero.pdf (theccc.org.uk)

2 – BBC.co.uk – Coronavirus: Holiday bookings ‘explode’ as travel restrictions ease – BBC News

 

Lucia Maclachlan – Account Manager