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Women in construction - Widening the talent pool

Women make up just over half of the U.K. population, but fewer than a fifth work in the construction sector. March 6 – 12th is ‘Women in Construction (WIC) week’ - where women’s contributions to the sector are showcased together with opportunities to enter the workforce, with the aim of shifting long-held bias and outdated perceptions within the industry.

Women make up around 14% of construction industry professionals and this number can only be set to rise with more and more women opting to enter the male-oriented world of construction. It must be said though, that misconceptions about gender-specific roles are gradually diminishing with a growing number of women choosing a career in construction, however, there still appears to be very little concern across the industry about this low level of female employment,  and only modest attempts to change attitudes and fix the problem.

Skills shortage

There is an undeniable skills shortage across the construction sector that’s been growing for decades and is felt across all four of the main types of construction in the UK: residential, commercial, specialist industry and infrastructure and heavy construction. 

With increased demand to build thousands of new homes every year, and large-scale commercial projects, government and construction industry leaders know they must attract as many people as possible into construction careers. So why not women?

Flexible working

If the industry is to attract new talent, especially female talent, then the introduction of more flexible working patterns can only be beneficial. Implementing flexible working for site-based workers, as well as office staff, is achievable and, if managed sensibly, would make construction more appealing to the workforce, including women who tend to opt out of non-flexible patterns due to caring responsibilities.

According to Carol Massey – Head of Construction – The Access Group:

“Construction leaders can take this as an opportunity to introduce a new output-based model, which means teams can schedule the work to suit them instead of turning up for a fixed number of hours each day.

This mentality can be adopted for site-based teams if projects are broken down into tasks or sections. An ideal solution would be to use the activities that were used to build up the price in the first place. In this way, site managers could provide the various teams involved in an activity with the fixed constraints (price, timescale, output) and let them decide how to arrange themselves best to get it done.

This doesn’t absolve the site manager of all responsibility, however, as the teams are now more focused on efficiency, there may be a natural focus on quality. Arguably, an hours-based approach doesn’t focus on quality either so perhaps nothing changes from this perspective.

Once teams are empowered to arrange their own work based on outputs rather than time, they are more likely to embrace flexibility.”

women in construction week 

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) predicts that construction output in the UK will grow by 5.4%, meaning an additional 258,000 workers will be required by 2025, as the economy and the sector continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic and Brexit-related challenges. Companies, therefore, need to widen the talent pool and bring new skills and diversity into their businesses.

There are signs that more women are considering construction careers and that long-held industry views about women in the sector are changing for the better, albeit slowly. But more needs to happen so those responsible for the built environment better reflect the society it is designed to serve. 

About WIC week

Women in Construction (WIC) Week was founded by the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) to create a support network for women in the construction industry.

This year’s WIC Week theme is “Envision Equity,” which seeks to raise awareness of opportunities for women to enjoy a wide range of roles in the construction industry.

WIC Week also provides an occasion for NAWIC’s thousands of members across the country to raise awareness of the opportunities available for women in the construction industry and to emphasise the growing role of women in the industry.

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