Lekha Giridharan is a Senior Lean Consultant at AECOM. As part of the team leading the company’s International Women’s Day celebrations across Europe, she helped organise a number of virtual events that brought together women from across the business to discuss how they #choosetochallenge. Covering topics from returning to work after furlough, balancing childcare and work during lockdown, to technical women and career progression, the discussions were a way for people to connect, network and share personal stories.
“I feel very proud of the events we organised,” says Lekha. “It was great to help facilitate a range of conversations from a diverse group of women at different stages of their careers. It really highlighted how many talented women we have in the business.”
Joining a company with more female employees was one of the things that attracted Lekha to AECOM. “My background is mechanical engineering,” she explains. “I joined AECOM from the manufacturing sector where I was the only woman in a technical role at my previous company. It’s great to now work in a business that has a much more diverse workforce.”
In her client-facing role, Lekha helps bring lean efficiencies to highways clients, working with AECOM’s project teams to continuously improve the way projects are delivered. “The application of lean principles is very successful in manufacturing, but they are also very relevant to the infrastructure sector,” she says. “This year more than ever, the focus is on effective collaborative working to deliver more efficiencies digitally. I am running virtual workshops for our teams and clients to ensure we continue to capture and share best practice using digital platforms.”
Lekha joined AECOM’s highways business from a different part of the company when she saw the opportunity to bring her skills to a new team. “I met my then manager through networking and we just clicked. She gave me the opportunity to implement new principles that I could see the business needed.”
Lekha was new to this role when she went on maternity leave, returning only a few months before the UK’s first national lockdown. “When I came back, I felt like I was in a new team and in a new role. The only thing familiar to me was the office and then quite suddenly we had to work from home.”
Balancing childcare with work was a challenge that evoked a constant sense of guilt. But Lekha found it reassuring to know that she had the flexibility at AECOM to balance her workload and home life just like all others in the business. “I’m really grateful to work for a company that is flexible and does not expect the traditional 9 – 5 lifestyle. I was able to work in a way that suited me, which was vital during those first few months of lockdown before nurseries reopened.” Freedom To Grow is recognised in many regions across AECOM, including Europe, as a way of working that empowers its people to find the working style that suits them best, balancing that with other commitments in their life.
Lekha is also co-secretary of AECOM’s Ethnic Diversity Network (EDN) in Europe, which champions an equitable workplace that is representative demographically of the countries and communities AECOM serves. Through inclusion, collaboration and learning, the EDN works with AECOM’s Europe Executive team and other stakeholder groups to elevate the working experience, career aspirations and pathways to leadership for current and future ethnically diverse employees.
“I feel very privileged to be part of the EDN committee. It’s an important group that will help the business attract, retain and develop a more ethnically diverse workforce. We’re seeing impressive levels of engagement from across the business already and have plans to continue to grow the network.”
About the authors
With thanks to AECOM Editors for allowing us to share and celebrate the articles & blogs from various leaders and employees