”The lack of diversity in the industry is putting young people off from wanting to join the sector, increasing concerns about the problem of labour and skills shortages in the future, the firm said.”
Shocker! I have said it a million times if young people google our industry or go to interviews and never see anyone like them why on hell would they want to work here? If you can’t see someone like you excelling through the industry you can’t envision your own future.
When I went to my first interview it was all men, all the other interviewees were men, all the interviewers were men – if I was younger or this was one of my first interviews I would never have chosen this industry.
And we haven’t even started on the expected hours, modern day sectors are flexible and accommodating for workers – unfortunately the construction industry is yet to catch up, why would someone choose construction? what are our USP’s to the next generation?
We can’t even hold on to the ones that do make it through the wire – the only 0.7% of women working in trades or in plant this number hasn’t changed in 30 years, we are hemorrhaging talent throughout the process for various reasons.
So only 0.7% of women working in construction work in a trades capacity and the majority of these women are working in painting and decorating – This number hasn’t changed in 30 years but why is this?
I often puzzle over this as I do many school talks etc and the willing from young people is always there to learn a new skill, then I look at the industry and realise that a lack of career advice, a misconception about working on site and a certain lack of flexibility would probably stop ladies somewhere along the line.
All this was fine and within my understanding however this week I read probably the most shocking but honest thread to do with the mistreatment of ladies working on the tools and it really threw me back.
The things mentioned were not issues I had faced working for a large contractor on well known big projects. I speak a lot about my own experiences on site and as an apprentice but in reality compared to the things I have read, my own experiences are more down to lack of thought and bad planning than any real malice.
The thread itself started with a lady who had spent over 30 years in the industry, started as an electrical apprentice and stated that although she had worked with some great people she had also been sexually assaulted, suffered sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination. She felt let down by hr and currently has not worked for 6 years after suffering a break down due to being bullied for 5 years by her manager!
So I read this absolutely horrified thinking well this is truly terrible but maybe this was a long time ago and things must be much better now.
Following this initial post a lot of other women joined in and I am going to quote some things I read.
“When I had my baby, I sadly had to take a demotion to allow for my child care because the business wouldn’t entertain it in a role I worked really hard to get.”
“I have only been in the industry 5 years and had to report sexual assault, which I took to the police – I no longer work there”
“Once I had an employer ignore my report of a customers inappropriate touching, I am much happier self employed”
“I am a student and it starts in the classroom, I am one of two women on the course and we were instantly segregated, I was stuck with an unpleasant 18 year old who was more into flirting than learning. After months of being ignored and left out of tasks, I lost it and was told I should have spoken up”
“6 Years ago I was sexually harassed, bullied and discriminated so badly it tipped me over the edge, was sent away which made me feel suicidal and then made redundant”
“I’m very upset as we speak, did work experience today and one of my college peers was making me uncomfortable but I can’t feel like I can do anything because he is special needs so doesn’t understand……………….I really don’t know if I should quit while im ahead”
So why has the 0.7% of women working in trades number not changed in 30 years?
Because we are not looking after our women, we are not supporting them throughout their learning or working environments.
We are hemorrhaging great people because we can’t change the culture in which we work, it isn’t that women don’t want to work in trades but allowing behaviors like the ones above to start even at a college level we are setting them up for failure within a broken system.
There are many great positive experiences out there too, but even one incident of any of the above is too many failures!
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.
This was something I heard on the train
yesterday while I was sat reading and it struck a bit of a chord with me.
I often speak about the first time I went to
site and how if I was younger or if it was my first job I wouldn’t have made
day two. I attended site with just an address, a time, contact number and was
told to attend site induction. Being my first time on site I didn’t really know
the format of these or where they would be held so I went to the office and
followed instruction to go upstairs and wait.
I went upstairs and walked into a room full
of guys getting briefed, I now know it was a brief at the time I didn’t know if
it was the induction. I walked into the room and it went quiet nobody said
anything, everyone just looked at me, so because I believed I was supposed to
be there I walked slowly to the back of the room. Eyes followed me as I took
each step, I eventually reached the rear of the room put my back to the wall
and slid down it till I reached the floor. I quickly realised I wasn’t suppose
to be there but I really didn’t want to move again, so I waited till everyone
finished and left the room.
During this time I questioned my choices –
Should I have stayed in recruitment ?
What was I doing there?
Site wasn’t for people like me?
It’s not to late to do something else ?
Why was I doing this to myself?
It was 100% a fight or flight moment and
looking back I am worried if I was a younger apprentice or if this was my first
job would I still be doing what I do now and I think the answer is – no I
My first few days on site everyone continued
staring, they continued talking about me, asking my team was that woman any good,
making sly comments and jokes. It was hard going and if I am honest I wanted to
be so good but probably wasn’t overly, I did my time in our yard but until you
get out on site and figure out your bearings and who you are working with its
all a bit trial and error and getting to know the team.
So the big question is are you
part of the solution or are you part of the problem?
Do you welcome new people to site? Do you
take time to talk to apprentices? Do you try to pass on your knowledge? Do you
say hello to new faces? Do you make people feel comfortable?
Or do you talk about them? Ignore them?
Belittle them? Exclude them? Make jokes about them?