Don’t be left behind

What if, rather than thinking about other countries where labour could be imported from, there was an untapped workforce already in the UK, which could not only bolster the ranks in the construction industry, but improve its overall performance and value?

Right now is the best chance we have ever had to revolutionise the construction industry in this country and set it up to be stronger and better for decades to come.

As of October 2019, just one in eight construction workers in the UK were women. This is despite it being well reported for many years that gender diversity in the workplace creates both financial and creative benefits for organisations that can successfully embrace it.

However, these benefits can only be realised when diversity is viewed as normality.

A steady stream of EU nationals leaving Britain to return home following the Brexit referendum has grown bigger by the day, add to the ever-increasing UK construction skills shortage. Add this to the industry’s ageing workforce and delivering on the UK Government’s call to “build, build, build” suddenly seems a great challenge. The Covid-19 pandemic has both sharpened the issue and shone a light on the sector’s lack of diversity.

It’s not enough just to bring women and BAME people into the workforce. Environments need to be created to encourage them to stay, and to thrive.

According to Randstad’s latest Women in Construction report, of those one in eight female construction workers, 72% experienced gender discrimination in 2019. This is down from 80% the previous year – slow progress. 47% of women said that a male dominated culture would be the number one reason for leaving the industry.

At Women into Construction, we are working with organisations across the industry to help them reap the full rewards of gender diversity.

And we are making progress. In 2018, 49% of construction workers said that they had never had a female manager. In 2019, this was down to 40%. Our initiatives are working, but we need more organisations to buy into what we know to be true.

Not only does diversity increase your pool of talent, but studies from McKinsey & Company have measured increased performance and financial returns at 3.5% in earnings for every 10% increase in gender diversity. Yet 15% of those construction firms surveyed by Randstad had never promoted a woman to a senior position. 43% have no women at all on their board of directors. This is despite only 5% of all respondents believing that a female manager would have a negative impact on their role.

It’s time for the leaders of the industry to play their part.

Since the beginning of 2013, when the Social Value Act came into force, it has become more important than ever for construction companies to illustrate the economic, social and environmental benefits they can deliver when bidding for public sector contracts.

Social value is increasingly a standalone set of criteria on bids and accounts for up to 25% of the overall assessment. With the government’s recent call to speed up the building of hospitals, homes, schools and roads, there is work to be had for the construction firms who can demonstrate their economic, social and environmental worth. A more diverse workforce improves performance in all these areas.

In September 2018, an independent analysis of our Changing the Face of Construction project found that for every £1 invested, we generate a huge £5.66 of social value. Every woman who secured employment via the project said that they would not have been able to secure a job in the construction industry without it.

Our member companies benefit from having access to a pool of women who are work ready, enthusiastic, and supported by Women Into Construction to stay in work and progress in their career. By working with us, construction companies can easily increase their gender diversity, as well as massively increasing the social value of their tenders, giving them more opportunity to win those all-important public sector contracts.

Kath Moore MBE, Chief Executive of Women into Construction, said “Since the 2012 London Olympics, Women into Construction has paved the way for more and more women to enter, and remain in, the UK construction industry. But there is still so much to do to allow gender diversity to reach its full potential. Brexit and Covid-19 have had, and will have, significant impacts upon the industry. But we must take full advantage of this opportunity for radical change to ensure that the UK can build its way to a more equal, prosperous future.”

To find out more about how Women into Construction can revolutionise your organisation and prepare you for the new world, contact us now.