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Women in Construction Aid to Skills Gap?

International Women's Day (March 8) was a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. You’d be surprised how far this event goes back, over a hundred years. What you may not be aware of is that only a few years ago, back in 2014, the Construction Youth Trust launched Building the Future: Celebrating Women in Construction in partnership with the Smith Institute and supported by CITB and Wates giving.

 Steve Craig and Andrea Oates identified in their chapter “Empowering women in construction” that:

 “Being a woman working in construction can be a lonely and isolating experience. According to official figures, while just under half of the UK workforce is now female, only 14 percent of workers in construction are women, and they are mostly in secretarial, administrative, design and project management roles.”

I will be honest; I came into construction by the side door (or window) from a world completely unaware of the varied roles within the industry. I now support this industry; I help find the right people. What struck me the most was how many women there are working in this industry; Don’t get me wrong, I’ve just pointed out that there was only 14% in 2014 and despite the numbers creeping up an equal balance is highly unlikely, but to me I was surprised (and delighted) to see so many women with fantastic skills sets and resumes; and this was mainly due to preconceived ideals over the years that the world of construction is not for women. But it is; and it’s growing.

Steve Craig and Andrea Oates also noted this with the example of Leicester City Council. Back in 2012 the council employed 123 women, 28% of the repair and maintenance team, to work on its housing stock. At the time the council took on 10-15 apprentices a year with women averaging 24% of those apprentices. (Building the future: women in construction March 2014 pg. 86).

Along with such educational institutions as the Leicester College, the Construction Youth Trust has seen an improvement in the number of young women on their courses and progressing into the construction industry. Despite this the Trust itself acknowledges that “There's always more we can do and we can only achieve real change together as an industry and as a society.” 

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) are proactive in the inclusion of women in the industry; both here in the UK and Asia with their sponsorship of the Women of the Future Awards.

In an interview for International Women’s Day RICS President Amanda Clack stated that the top 3 things needed to drive equality in the workplace were:

  1. Leadership and vision starting from the top of the organisation and working through to all levels to help drive the necessary organisational and cultural change through effective action planning.
  2. A real focus on staff retention that doesn’t see precious top talent leave the sector as they have become disillusioned mid-career. We must address things such as parental leave, flexible working, and career progression.
  3. Proactive support to under-represented minorities, such as women, that allows everyone to bring themselves to work every day – through support such as coaching, mentoring and networking groups.

Amanda Clack believes that “By educating the educators – parents and teachers – that the built and natural environment offers a great career.” The industry has the best chance of attracting women to the profession.

In June 2016 they produced the “Building Inclusivity: Laying the Foundations for the Future” an RICS Inclusive Employer Quality Mark which acknowledges that:

“The UK land, property and built environment sector has not traditionally been associated with the image of a diverse workforce. However, the RICS report “Our Changing World: Let’s Be Ready” highlighted that one of the key areas employers were concerned we address together is the War for Talent; that means drawing upon talent from diverse backgrounds. We urgently need to go beyond our usual recruitment hunting grounds if we are going to ensure that we have a profession that is relevant and fit for the future in a rapidly changing environment.”

As I wrote in my last blog there is a 5 Year Growth Trend Forecast for UK Construction; there is the ever increasing need for good quality construction professionals, both women and men.

There is the opportunity to grow this industry. Our clients are looking for skilled individuals. We are looking for skilled individuals. The tag line for this year’s International Women’s day was #BeBoldForChange a rather fitting tag line for the construction industry also, don’t you think?

 

For more information on employment within the construction industry please search our Jobs section.

 

Sharlene Britton
Office Manager

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