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What could be done to improve diversity in construction?


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Yesterday I was quoted in the CN briefing that was emailed out and I wanted to just expand on the briefing bellow.

I was asked to comment on what could be done to improve diversity in the construction sector and if off site can be used to attract more women to the industry ?

I was also told that a recent Scottish Parliament committee meeting the panel discussed that off site might attract more to the industry compared to on site work.They went on to say that on site conditions-such as travelling far from home and uncertainty relating to jobs and hours may make the factory conditions of off-site a more attractive prospect for women.

Huge question right and just like everyone else I don’t really have the magic answer for this, I believe there are a number of issues that need addressing in order to attract women to the industry and do I think off site can be used to attract more women….. probably but there shouldn’t be any reason we can’t change the way the industry is currently t in order to attract more women.

If I look at this in a fairly simple way I think the first problem we have is visibility and women being aware of the opportunities that are available to them in a on site capacity, the ability to learn a completely new trade etc via an apprenticeship or course. Much the same as previously to me being offered my apprenticeship I really didn’t believe I could ever do something like crane operating.

The next problem we have is the lack of flexibility in an onsite capacity, I go a lot of office meetings where everyone pats themselves on the back because Jean, David and John get to either come in later or leave earlier to accommodate their children and lives at home. Unfortunately none of this translates to the people on site they can’t come in later because the morning briefing will not be moved, they can’t leave earlier because they are not doing their bit for site, being a team player and they will leave everyone one person down or leaving plant without an operator.

The industry is in generally massively less accommodating for people in on site roles, add in the mix of agency workers and the ability to change staff easily and the fact that if you won’t work on a weekend or stay the extra hours if needed – you are viewed as being a bit awkward, it makes it very hard for people to say no.

It’s a vicious circle the people on site won’t stand up because they don’t want to rock the boat and risk losing their jobs, they don’t wan’t to be awkward and they are grateful for the job but they realise they are not irreplaceable.

There is no reason why we can’t make the site more accommodating for everyone, yes it will take a lot more work and it will be hard to put things in place but is the industry willing to make this happen just yet ?

I agree we can probably do more to attract women in an off site capacity but in all honesty why can’t we make the changes on site to make everyones lives better, we all go on about mental health and how important it is but we have plenty of people working away from home for massive hours and the industry gives very little to them in return. Ok the pay is good but there is a lot to be said for working in a stable and secure enviroment where everyones life balance matters.

If we improve on site conditions, flexibility and visability I think the diversity numbers will increase themselves.

Women in construction numbers – Close up!

As an aside if we look into the numbers as given to me by Kath Moore of Women into Construction

Women in the industry overall is 12-13%

About 10-11% are engineers

Leaving 2% in the manual area!

When we look deeper into this manual area most are working in unskilled areas including cleaning. The true figure of those who are trades women inc plant operators is around 0.7%

The majority of that 0.7% work in painting and decorating

THE NUMBER OF WOMEN IN TRADES HAS NOT IMPROVED IN 30 YEARS!!!!!!!!

In short I have no magic to make this better but I think with a few small changes we could make the on site part of the industry a lot more on par with other industries in the UK in terms of attraction for women. It is a sad thought that women pick other industries over ours just down to sheer flexibility that we currently can’t offer, imagine how much talent is slipping through our fingers.

Thank you Caroline Wadham from Construction News for letting me get involved.

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