The UK construction sector employs around 3m people of which only 13% are women – a proportion that has barely risen since the recession in 2008. However, the opportunities for women in construction remain rich and diverse. Morris & Spottiswood strategic development director, Viv Sutherland, explains how a focus on creating work environments for people of all levels and genders is enabling the nationwide firm to thrive.
The construction sector’s contribution the UK economy is well documented, generating circa £110bn a year at around 7% of GDP. It has always been high-profile attracting national headlines, largely because it offers a good indication of the general health of the broader economy. If the economy falters, investment stutters and the cranes which dominate the city skylines grind to a halt. When the conditions are more favourable the industry can quickly overheat.
It remains a fascinating sector with great variety ranging from mining, quarrying and forestry to the construction of infrastructure and buildings, the manufacture and supply of products, as well as maintenance, operation and disposal.
However, one of its more remarkable features is the makeup of its workforce. The industry accounts for approximately 3million jobs – 10pc of total UK employment. Despite its enormous impact a staggeringly low proportion of these people are women. In fact, the estimates have been placed at around 13%, a figure which has barely risen since the recession over a decade ago.
One of main reasons is due to common misconceptions about the industry. The construction sector still struggles to communicate its true potential to all audiences and is too frequently considered a mainstay for burly male builders with hard hats and high-vis jackets. The reality is it’s a rapidly expanding multi-billion-pound industry. It’s no different to many other industries in that it requires a huge range of people with varied skills. It needs marketeers, buyers, program and project managers, key account managers, business development managers, estimators and bid writers, as well as roles across the trades.
There remains a major lack of awareness of these opportunities. Construction desperately needs women, not least to reflect the people we deliver work for. Businesses are naturally improved when there is a healthy balance of men and women offering different opinions, approaches, styles of management and communication processes.
Every day in construction is different. It offers variety and challenges and is filled with passionate people who love what they do. I have worked in many sectors and without doubt construction is the most enjoyable. It’s exciting, fast-paced and hugely rewarding with many opportunities to be creative and innovate. At Morris & Spottiswood we have worked hard to create a work environment in which people of all levels and genders can thrive. We are passionate about investing in people and take care about what we do and how we do it. This ensures that the working environment, staff, suppliers and the communities we serve always remain front-of-mind.
In recent months we further boosted our female workforce which now accounts for 17% of the 350-strong staff base across Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth, Warrington and Leeds. Our latest appointments include Project Administrator, Kirstie McWilliams; Financial Accountant, Hannah Milligan, and HR Business Partner, Rachel Sutcliffe.
But to provide a fair reflection of the variety of roles women play within our business we have women working right across Technical, Supervisory and Management positions within Quantity Surveying, Estimating, Human Resources, Finance, IT, HSQE, Business Development, Marketing and Proposals. In addition, we have women in senior director positions on both trading and operation boards. There are further female employees in office support roles involving administration and finance, as well as apprentices, trainees and graduate positions.
The work these women undertake is critical to the successful delivery of our broad range of services including fitout and refurbishment, M&E and facilities management.
Ultimately, the construction sector needs to be more vigorous in spreading a positive message about women in construction. More specifically, it needs to better promote the abundant opportunities for women aside from the typical ‘hard hat’ management and trade roles.
The industry must also redouble efforts to balance the current male female ratio and promote the benefits of mixed and diverse teams. In our experience women play an invaluable role by providing a different perspective and thought process when tackling challenges – whether on site or in the office. It is crucial we have a diverse team due to the fluid nature of construction and the variety of sectors we work in – ranging from commercial office, finance, education, industrial and manufacturing, to local authorities and government, healthcare, retail and leisure.
In an effort to raise greater awareness of opportunities, and also to promote more women from within, Morris & Spottiswood is funding a broad package of undergraduate, graduate and internal management development programmes. Importantly, these positions aren’t solely focused on construction roles. This year alone we have taken on marketing and IT placements, while developing an open discipline graduate programme to encourage non-construction related individuals to plug our talent pipeline.
We recognise that the diversity of our team is one of Morris & Spottiswood’s greatest strengths. It is fundamental to our growth plan and changing client needs.
For further details about Morris & Spottiswood visit www.morrisandspottiswood.co.uk