AfPA’s newly formed National Diversity and Inclusion Committee aims to help address the barriers and challenges to successfully attract, recruit and retain a broad workforce. Lise Sperling, AfPA’s Executive Director for New South Wales and ACT, explains.
In January this year, the Australian Flexible Pavement Association’s (AfPA’s) National Diversity and Inclusion Committee gathered for the first time to discuss the barriers to diversity within the pavement sector and to come up with practical plans to address the issue.
Lise Sperling, AfPA’s Executive Director – New South Wales and ACT and herself a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion, is leading the new AfPA initiative, with support from AfPA’s Chief Executive Director Carlos Rial and AfPA’s Executive Director for Knowledge and Partnership, Tanja Conners.
Sperling is excited by the prospects the new AfPA initiative will offer the industry and particularly by the overwhelming support and passion shown by all committee members in the first quarterly meeting.
“The idea for setting up this committee was born at our 2021 International Women’s Day event in Sydney. We soon realised our industry was limiting its talent potential and needs to break down the barriers for all under-represented groups within the industry and encourage a more diverse and more inclusive workforce,” she says.
“The goals of the committee are to build knowledge and to work with the flexible pavement industry to better understand the barriers and challenges to successfully attract, recruit and retain a broad workforce. AfPA recognises that the pavement industry plays a key role in our economic recovery, and we want to make sure the industry is fostering a diverse pool of talent, including women, people from indigenous communities, people of all age groups, refugees and migrants, and all minorities.”
The 16 members on the new AfPA committee represent a wide array of skills, experiences and backgrounds. The committee is chaired by Ms Kym Murphy, who is the General Manager (RoadTek) at Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads. Other Committee members all hold senior positions, either within government organisations, the private sector or academia.
Among its first initiatives, Sperling says the committee is aiming to create new opportunities for networking, leadership, training and mentorship within the sector. The AfPA International Women’s Day 2022 event due to be held on June 22 in Sydney is among such initiatives.
The committee will also look at providing new training opportunities to help with knowledge sharing within the sector, Sperling explains.
“During COVID, certain segments of our industry have been severely affected, we have seen the issues around skills shortages exacerbated and the urgent need to attract the next generation of young engineers into our industry. This highlights the need for a more inclusive workforce. We look to engage and attract people of all ages into our industry, from all backgrounds. Realising this gap, we are looking at ways to share knowledge, experience and social capital to keep the industry at the forefront,” Sperling says.
As for all complex issues, Sperling acknowledges that there are no quick and straightforward solutions to the existing lack of diversity within the sector. Nonetheless, she says, AfPA is leading the way and at the forefront of driving a change.
“This is the first Diversity and Inclusion Committee specifically dedicated to the pavement industry in Australia. We are bringing everyone together and, first and foremost, we are acknowledging that there is a problem by starting the conversation. AfPA is taking this head on and acknowledging that there is a systemic problem here that requires continuous efforts from everyone in the sector,” she says.
Ultimately, Sperling says, the committee’s goal is to create a roadmap for diversity and inclusion within the pavement sector, which would help drive more accountability from all key players in the industry.
“It’s about having practical and effective collaboration and understanding the key issues across our industry to ensure that we can deliver equitable and diverse industry going forward. We are advocating for gender equity participation across the industry and looking to identify and promote opportunities that support those fundamental values.”
This article was originally published in the March edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.