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Fiona Sugden

Global Diversity, Belonging & Human Rights Project Manager

Conversations for Change is a blog series that highlights exceptional people from diverse backgrounds, promoting inclusive discussions and positive global impact. Explore with us as we feature inspiring Arcadians, amplify their voices and contribute to a more inclusive and equitable future through thoughtful conversations.

Tugba Ergin

Tugba Ergin

How do you define Gender Equity and actively promote it in your work environment?

Gender equity, to me, means ensuring fairness and equal opportunities for people of all genders. I actively promote gender equity by advocating for inclusive policies and practices within my company and the broader industry. This includes initiatives such as mentorship programs, where I've personally benefited from the support provided by organizations like the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in the UK. Additionally, having worked on projects in over 14 different countries, I've seen firsthand the importance of embracing diverse perspectives and cultures to foster an inclusive work environment. By sharing my experiences and providing mentorship, particularly to young engineers within ICE, I aim to contribute to a more equitable and supportive industry for all while aiming to foster a love of sustainable infrastructure applications and creating resilient cities. Additionally, I utilize my position as a Global Sustainability Partner for Water Stewardship to integrate gender considerations into our projects and promote equitable access to resources and opportunities for all stakeholders.

In a traditionally male-dominated industry, what specific obstacles or biases have you encountered, and how did you overcome them to succeed in your career? What lessons have you learned from these experiences?

In my 16 years in the industry, I've faced or observed numerous obstacles and biases inherent in a male-dominated environment, from stereotypes about women's technical abilities to unconscious biases in project assignments and promotions. Overcoming these challenges wasn't solely about seeking mentorship and support, but also about having difficult conversations and fostering genuine connections. I found it crucial to create safe spaces for open dialogue, where both professional and emotional support could be freely shared. I personally benefited from the 'safe nests' that have been created around me by my mentors throughout my professional career, and I strive to ensure that my mentees feel the same. I aim to create a non-judgmental zone where we adhere to an unwritten rule of confidentiality between us. These genuine interactions, coupled with mentorship, have been invaluable in navigating hurdles and advancing in my career. They've taught me the importance of authenticity and vulnerability in fostering supportive networks within and beyond Arcadis.

What advice would you give to individuals entering the AEC industry? What was the most impactful piece of advice you've received on your journey so far?

For individuals entering the AEC industry, I would advise embracing diverse experiences, seeking out mentorship and networking opportunities, in addition to advocating for yourself and others in the pursuit of equity and inclusion. As a mentor myself within the ICE, I've experienced firsthand the value of mentorship in providing guidance, support, and opportunities for growth and advancement. Since the AEC industry has a wide range of sub-sectors, I strongly suggest that the younger generation spend their time and energy finding the area(s) they are truly passionate about. Therefore, rotating between various disciplines is the advice I would give to those who are in the early stages of their careers. The most impactful piece of advice I've received on my journey is to be authentic, confident, and unapologetic about my expertise and contributions. It's essential to recognize and celebrate your unique perspective and skills while also advocating for yourself and others in the pursuit of equity and inclusion.

What motivates you in your work? In your ideal world, what would best practice look like?

I'm motivated by the opportunity to make a meaningful impact through my work, whether it's advancing sustainable solutions, promoting diversity and inclusion, or empowering others to reach their full potential. In my ideal world, best practice would involve creating inclusive work environments where diversity is celebrated, equity is prioritized, and everyone has equal opportunities to thrive and contribute to their fullest capacity. This includes providing mentorship and support tailored to the needs of women engineers, promoting diversity in leadership positions, and fostering a culture of inclusion where everyone's contributions are valued and respected. I envision the transformation in the workplace as merely the starting line of a marathon - a race towards a global shift that we fervently anticipate permeating every facet of life!

What excites you about this year’s IWD theme of ‘Allyship & Inclusion’? Regarding gender equity, what change would you like to see in the next 10 years?

I'm excited about this year's IWD theme of allyship and inclusion because it emphasizes the importance of collective action in advancing gender equity. I believe that true progress requires the active participation and support of allies from all genders, backgrounds, and levels of influence. And by working together as allies, we can create positive change and break down systemic barriers to inclusion in the workplace and beyond. In the next 10 years, I hope to see significant strides towards gender equity, including closing the gender pay gap, increasing the representation of women in leadership positions, and dismantling systemic barriers to inclusion in the workplace and beyond. In simple words – I hope we wouldn’t be even talking about any of these topics in 10 years' time and young professionals will not even be bothered about these obstacles.


Fiona Sugden

Fiona Sugden

Global Diversity, Belonging & Human Rights Project Manager