04 MAR 2020


A University of Cambridge leadership degree programme for the construction industry is looking to attract more women in a bid to increase diversity at leadership level in the industry.

The Construction Engineering Masters (CEM) programme was established in 2011 to educate future leaders and innovators in the architecture, engineering and construction industry and provide a source of talent to drive transformation of the industry. The degree is run by the Laing O’Rourke Centre for Construction Engineering and Technology at the University of Cambridge, with support from the Judge Business School. 

The CEM programme, which aims to empower agents of change to meet the future challenges of society, is designed for experienced professionals – candidates with at least five years’ professional experience who have been identified by their organisations as emerging leaders. To date 99 students have graduated from the CEM and benefitted from the multidisciplinary programme. Applications for the two-year, part-time course have increased in number, but organisers want more women to enrol. 

Dr Kristen MacAskill, Construction Engineering Masters course director, said: “The sector is experiencing significant change through application of new technologies and modern methods. However, for the sector to truly transform we need change and diversity at leadership level. We would like to see more women apply to this year’s programme and hope that applicants with a broad range of backgrounds in the sector also consider this programme as a development pathway.”

The potential benefits of diversity in leadership and workforce are well documented. However, while companies are increasingly regarding inclusion and diversity as a source of competitive advantage, the McKinsey report Women in the Workplace said that “…women continue to be underrepresented at every level. To change the numbers, companies need to focus where the real problem is. We often talk about the ‘glass ceiling’ that prevents women from reaching senior leadership positions. In reality, the biggest obstacle that women face is much earlier in the pipeline, at the first step up to manager. Fixing this ‘broken rung’ is the key to achieving parity”.

Maria Seco, engineering maintenance manager at Elizabeth Line TfL and a current CEM student, said: “This course is flexible enough to allow me to enjoy the studies while not neglecting other responsibilities. As a full-time working mum, who had her second child during the programme, it was refreshing to see how naturally all my challenges were never viewed as a problem for this fantastic team of academics. The content of the programme and the way it is conducted makes you feel that you can achieve great things professionally, regardless of your circumstances or background. An incredibly empowering experience.”

Last year there was a drop in what had appeared to be an increasing trend in applications from high-potential female candidates. Dr MacAskill is calling for construction and infrastructure organisations to support diversity in the future leaders of their organisations. 

“Since I have been involved in the course women have consistently featured amongst the highest performers, yet they are underrepresented in numbers,” she said. “We appreciate this is one factor of diversity, but it has been a strong signal to us that significant change is still needed. This course is challenging but don’t assume that it is not for you. I hope more women will realise their skills and talent and consider this course as a steppingstone in their journey to pursue leadership and to advance the industry. The experience gained from the CEM programme really is unique – there is no other course like it,” said MacAskill.”

Click here for full details of the 2020 Construction Engineering Masters programme.


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