Why diversity matters

We often hear the words ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’ thrown around in business circles. There’s a temptation for some to see them as nothing more than buzzwords or just another box to tick. The truth is, they serve as a core building block of a strong, resilient business.

The construction industry can always do more for diversity. Women make up about 12% of the workforce in construction. And most of these work in office positions, not out on site. Less than 1% of site workers are women.

Diverse and inclusive businesses are more forward-thinking and resilient. They’re modern, open, and set themselves up for all the benefits that a diverse workforce has to offer. And, given the significant skills gap the construction industry is currently facing, this is something it can tap into to help them flourish.
Construction businesses can say they value diversity until they’re blue in the face, but many they are failing to implement it. But what will count is action and investment. It’s time to embrace diversity and all it has to offer – but where should you start?

More than a policy

Diversity is more than just a policy you put on your website. It takes more effort than that. It’s got to be a fundamental truth about your business – that you have an ongoing commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workforce.

One expression we hear often is “the right person for the job should be the person with the right skills”. While that sounds good in theory, it can miss the point. We have to acknowledge that biases exist and there is more we can do to create a fair and equal work environment.

Diversity and inclusivity matter – at every level. Across all industries, higher representation of women in C-suite positions results in 34% greater returns to shareholders. But we need to see diversity at all levels of a corporation if we want to create a rich, diverse culture. Caring about diversity isn’t just the right thing to do ethically, it’s good business. And it requires some dedicated attention to see how it manifests in our businesses and how we can combat it. That’s why it’s more than a policy – it’s a whole school of thought.

Within construction

The skills shortage is the drive needed to bring about change within the construction industry. Here we have a big neon sign saying “hire a more diverse workforce!” It’s the signal this industry needs to modernise and offer opportunities to women in what can be a male-dominated field. With a more diverse workforce, you open yourself up to a large portion of talent that has exactly the skills you need and brings a different perspective to every challenge.

By encouraging a wider range of people into the industry – and welcoming them when they get here – we can benefit from better solutions, more collaborative teams, and stronger businesses. We benefit from a variety of people, bringing a valuable mix of experience, skill sets, and fresh perspectives. According to the Peterson Institute, businesses in the top 25% in gender diversity were almost 50% more likely to outperform their industry average.

But this also comes with recognising the roadblocks that affect women. It might be something as simple as PPE – most of it is designed for men, meaning it isn’t a good fit for women. This, in turn, makes them more at risk of workplace injuries. So you have to be open to fixing these issues in your pursuit of diversity.
Bringing in more women will help to overturn current standards and systems like these – making for a more inclusive, diverse, and resilient industry that’s better able to navigate upcoming challenges and industry developments.

Going one step further

Being diverse within your own business is one thing. Being on the forefront of creating a more diverse industry is something else entirely.

By embedding diversity into your supply chain – demanding it of all your suppliers and representatives – your business goes one step further. You can require diversity and inclusivity measures to be reflected in procurement, establishing an expectation from all tenders, and do your bit to encourage more widespread progress.

“ Women into Construction applaud our members for working with us to address the gender imbalance in their workforces and we encourage them to use their influence to go further.” Says Kath Moore, MD of WiC. “ For true balance to be met, the industry must work together so that the entire supply chain is creating and supporting opportunities for women across the sector. Tackling issues within your own organisation is a great start, using your influence to amplify action is where we will see lasting change.”

Resilience is about diversity, inclusion, and ongoing progress, not just words on a page. It’s about action. And if we all commit to what we promise, there’s no reason we can’t build a better industry. Or more than that – a better world.

So let’s build back better. Together.

Next month, Women into Construction is hosting a panel event titled ‘Diversifying our workforce’. Tune in to find out how some of the UK’s most successful construction firms have been working with Women into Construction to secure better quality work, deliver projects on time, and within budget. We invite you to explore how diversity can ensure a stronger future for us all. Find out more here.