Investing in Women with Openreach

What barriers do women face when trying to progress in construction and engineering?

We explored this, and more, as we facilitated Openreach’s inaugural “Investing in Women” networking event on Tuesday, 18th October.

Jacqui opens event

The event took place against the dramatic skyline of London within BT’s HQ at One Braham, bringing together female industry professionals and leaders from Openreach. The event was warmly opened by Matthew Kirkman, Director of Infrastructure Solutions, Surinder Khatter, Managing Director – Service Delivery, Customer, Transformation & Data and virtually with Kim Mears OBE, Managing Director of Infrastructure Delivery connecting to the room via video message.

Our Business Development Director, Jacqui Wordsworth, set the scene for the day by discussing Women into Construction’s work to ‘Change the Face of Construction”, using interactive polls to survey opinions in the audience around obstacles women face and solutions that individuals, teams and organisations can implement to overcome them.

Women into Construction’s Shelley Lawrence then set the room their first task – working as a team to build a wall of brick boxes displaying everyone’s individual barrier to success. A structure was formed, and commonalities in barriers were facing us, including;

  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of female role models and networking opportunities
  • Not being informed of, or considered for, promotion opportunities
  • Need for flexible working

To name a few – now the hard work began, breaking down those barriers.

To share their career journeys, Openreach leaders were invited to the stage for a panel discussion, expertly facilitated by Tracy Fenton, Chair of Openreach’s Gender Equality Network. Panellists included Managing Director – Service Delivery, Customer, Transformation & Data, Surinder Khatter, Partnership Director, Connie Dixon and Managing Director – Fibre & Network Delivery, Matthew Hemmings. All contributed to an honest and open conversation, sharing their values, career hurdles, advice and commitment to action for supporting women in the sector.

Breakout sessions throughout the day allowed the participants time to “invest in themselves”. Through mentoring circles, groups networked, shared their stories, and offered peer-to-peer advice and guidance. Following lunch, it was time to reflect, focus and look forward as participants worked through a series of personal development tasks exploring their core values, writing personal statements and getting creative, drawing their visions for the future – in true Tony Hart style, they shared their masterpieces on our WiC gallery wall.

Finally – it was time to dismantle the wall of barriers! Brick-shaped boxes tumbled, and participants were invited to open them up on collection. Although the barrier they wrote on the box at the start of the event may not have been removed in one day, the contents of a personal development plan full of tips, advice and guidance (and some Openreach goodies too) ensured they would walk away with a tool to work on overcoming it long-term.

The day concluded with further networking and an opportunity to take in those skyline views, whilst enjoying a drink with new connections.

Huge thanks from the WiC Team to our platinum members, Openreach, for inviting us to facilitate this inspirational event. Bringing women and allies together to inspire, empower, and network is key to addressing the gender imbalance in the sector, and we were proud to be a part of the first event of its kind for your organisation.

If you would like more information on becoming a platinum member of Women into Construction, please contact