11 MAY 2022


Mott MacDonald has recently appointed Cathy Travers to its executive board. Andy Walker caught up with Travers to get her reaction to becoming a director of a company she has spent her whole career working for.

You can’t help warming to Cathy Travers. A real people person and an enthusiast for the role that the construction and infrastructure industry plays in transforming peoples lives for the better, she’s undoubtedly a real asset to Mott MacDonald. She’s spent her whole working career at the firm, joining after graduating from the University of Sheffield in 1988 with a masters in civil and structural engineering. Now, as managing director of Mott MacDonald’s UK and Europe region, she is responsible for a diverse team of 8,000 people who work in the built environment, advisory, transportation, water, environment and energy sectors. 

Travers is delighted about her appointment to the Mott MacDonald board. “I’ve worked here for 34 years and have dedicated my whole life to Mott MacDonald and I couldn’t be more thrilled and honoured to be given this opportunity and I hope I can do everyone proud in my new role,” she said. 

Her people-focused approach shines through when I ask her about the issues she will be concentrating on at board level. “Like our other board members, I’m a really people focused person. We are only as good as the talent we have and attracting and retaining talent and making sure that we develop people and make them the best that they can be and ensuring diversity will be very important in the future,” says Travers. 

“I also see net zero as a massive opportunity for the industry. With limited investment from clients, we need to make sure that the investment continues. Digital is also at the top of my agenda in terms of how we optimise delivery for our clients but also the new transformative ideas that we have for the business. So, I’ll be looking to bring all these strands together at the board level,” Travers says.

An office-based company working in an agile way

I also ask her how she thinks that Covid will affect the working patterns of the industry. “I still believe we are an office-based company - you can’t deliver major complex infrastructure from everyone sitting in their bedrooms and our more junior members of staff absolutely need that development and support,” she says. “But I think we are an office-based company that can work in an agile way, so people getting that better home-work-life balance is important too. We don’t want to lose that culture of people-to-people contact that is so important in an industry like ours,” says Travers.

Travers is also keen to address the key issue of diversity and inclusion, something she is clearly passionate about. “As a company and as an industry we have done a lot, but we need to do more, especially in the area of narrowing pay gaps,” she says. “It’s encouraging that our group board is now 30% women and our UK and Europe board is 40% women. At the junior end of the spectrum, we are getting a 50/50 intake which is absolutely brilliant, but it’s at the senior levels where we need to attract more diversity into the business. We have done lots of unconscious bias training, reverse mentoring and we review all our job adverts for language and are using data to measure whether we are being fair around promotions and appointments,” she says.

Travers believes that creating an environment where people feel safe and able to speak out is also crucial in avoiding group think and also in fostering more diversity of thought. “We can and will improve in this area and this will help to bring in a more diverse intake of people. This will in turn improve the perception of our industry. We are an industry that changes peoples lives and we need to celebrate that more and focus on the positive good that we do and really value some of the complex stuff that we are doing that is making a difference,” she says.

Social outcomes are at the heart of everything

This brings us neatly on to the issue of social value, which Travers considers to be a crucial one for the industry. “It’s massively important. We put social outcomes at the heart of everything that we are doing and we have good people doing really great things. We need to think about the effect on communities of what we are doing. Who doesn’t want to feel good about changing the world and the communities we work in?”

Travers’s passion for making a difference really shines through and is infectious. “Making sure that we empower people through the work that we do is crucial,” she says. Our staff are passionate about all this and I am too and that’s why I have stayed with Mott MacDonald for 34 years. We are a really good ethical company that wants to do great things for our communities.

“I feel so honoured to be appointed as a director of Mott MacDonald, a company with a purpose I truly believe in and I can’ t wait to bring my skills and passions to work with the board to drive the business forward,” she says.


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