Are there still gender issues in the construction workplace? Not enough to put me off.
Gender might only be an issue if you allow it to be. I actively seek out more female orientated pastimes, but I have to confess I don’t feel that comfortable in an all-female environment either – balance is key. Teams will always need people with a wide range of skills to complete any given task effectively.
Just 11% of the construction industry is represented by women. Over 30% of our employees are women, so at Simons we buck the trend. How can we change that average more widely? My twin daughters are currently choosing their year 9 options – GSCE construction is on the list, so why don’t they want to do it?
Girls may lack enough positive role models in the construction industry; it’s still a novelty to see a female talking head in a hard hat on the news or a documentary. Many businesses could do something here by placing a woman in the spokesperson role. We want to see our supply chain showing more female representation too. If girls see women doing well in the industry, they will see it as a valid choice.
Maths and sciences are infinitely helpful, but in everyday work they are applied and specific enough to be meaningful in a way that the A-levels I struggled through never were. Make it relevant and show how it’s applied. Working outdoors in all weathers are strong drivers for those who might want to study Geography, so for those careers in ecology, hydrology and coastal engineering could hold great appeal.
Children need to see where their potential can take them, rather than the old myth of creative jobs being poor career choices. Thinking back to my earliest exposure to building design at primary school I can vividly remember making cardboard box castles and spaceships at 5, scale model mud huts aged 6, designing an underground house aged 7 and a church aged 8. Perhaps someone already spotted that I was destined to study architecture, even though it didn’t occur to me until I was about 17.
In the last few years the government has repeatedly confirmed that creative roles, Architecture included, contribute over £70bn each year to the UK’s economy – do the maths and you’ll see the value. So, armed with these myth busters, how can we get more girls interested? What if there were construction companies with a much higher female population, would they be different, could they be better?
Looking at my own employer today I see a business which values what women can bring to the table. These women are as valued as the men regardless of their gender because we get things done on time, to budget and at the specified quality and fundamentally uphold our company values. The fact that women make 30% of that workforce is not due to us searching for more female-friendly roles, it’s because we hire on merit. And as a result we have a more balanced table than the norm.
Without the attention to detail, care and passion women naturally represent, we would not be able to offer our customers the responsible and reliable approach that we pride ourselves upon. A construction company run by women would probably feel a lot like where I’m working right now, only not as diverse. Focus on the balance and performance and watch the girls build.