It is an understatement to say that the industry still needs to make greater strides to bring more women into the construction industry. With data showing that women still comprise only 10% of the construction workforce, despite several decades of campaigns to equal out the field, here Paul McNeill, Director of Ball & Berry, looks at how the sector can address the issue in a meaningful way.
Despite a third of construction companies promoting a woman to a senior position in 2017, there is still such unconscious bias deeply rooted in the industry that women only account for 2.5% of all tradespeople and 16% of C-level positions.
And we now have a further challenge on our hands when it comes to levelling up. A poll of over 2,000 mothers of primary school aged children, by campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed, found that 21% said they had either lost or quit their job since the second Coronavirus lockdown started. Experts are claiming there will be a generational rollback on any progress made to bring women forward in terms of workplace equality, which will further damage the construction industry’s efforts, too.
It is now up to us as business leaders to put measures in place to give females wanting a career in construction access to secure employment, opportunities to progress and the flexibility they require to be their best at home and work.
We’re in a privileged position that this has been a key focus of ours for many years – unequivocally, our business offers equity for job applicants of any gender, background or specialism. We make it a priority to ensure that females who join the company – some of whom have been subject to prior prejudice and discrimination – experience only a fair, representative and nurturing workplace environment that helps them achieve more than they ever set out to.
Our administration and finance director is a perfect example of this. Karen joined the company in 2013 as an office manager, and within weeks had made it clear she was determined to transform our business. She had experience in construction, but not specifically building control; the technicalities and jargon never phased her and she set about identifying ways in which we could achieve a more agile back end system which would, in turn, help us build our brand.
We’re committed to supporting our team through any training they feel might empower them in their role. Over the years, we have witnessed Karen achieve her AAT Accountancy qualifications and a Level 3 Diploma in Leadership and Management, and she is currently studying for her Level 4 Diploma in Management. Training had always been important to us before this point, but Karen created a roadmap that wasn’t in place previously. No-one could, or would, deny that Karen deserved recognition and since her time with us, she has progressed to become a company director.
More important than this, though, was that Karen’s achievements have demonstrated to other women wanting to join Ball & Berry that they will never be deprived of success. Since Karen’s appointment eight years ago, when she became the first female to join the team, four other women have been appointed and all of them are currently part way through qualifications that they could use to become fully fledged building control surveyors in the future. The majority didn’t join us with that end goal in mind – but we make it clear the opportunities to be at the forefront of UK construction are endless because as long as construction exists, building control is required.
A lot of women who have been made redundant or who have left their jobs as a result of the pandemic might feel extremely anxious about the future and what it holds for them. I hope that the government’s continued investment into construction acts as a trigger to encourage more females into the industry once seeking employment is on their radar again. The sector still has its challenges but there are businesses like ours doing everything they can to put men and women on the same plinth, to champion them equally and create a future with a 50/50 split in terms of gender. Seek us out – we want you on board.