Diversity can be a strategic advantage to any company, allowing access to a broader range of opinions, ideas and approaches to problems, opening the door to more creative solutions. The construction industry has historically been synonymous with perpetuating out-dated behaviours and boasting an almost solely male workforce, however, in recent years, things have changed. More women than ever are now working across various sectors within the industry and companies are actively implementing changes which aim to change outdated attitudes and improve the working environment to further encourage a diverse range of people.
One of the key takeaways for companies trying to improve their diversity within their workforce, it is important to remember that diversity breeds diversity. By ensuring opportunities are available and accessible, alongside promoting a healthy workplace, companies can begin to improve their diversity internally and support it within the wider industry.
State of the industry
The Construction Industry Council’s 2016 report; A Blueprint for Change revealed that only 14% of the entire construction workforce in the UK is female employees, which had risen from 13.5% in 2009. This lowly growth is far from impressive, and although the under-25’s age group of women in construction is growing the most rapidly, companies need to make a much more sustained effort to not only increase the number of women recruited but also developing strategies to retain them. Women need to be included in progression plans, implementing a solid structure which demonstrates how this will be achieved to reach senior leadership positions.
Architecture and design have seen significant increases in female talent, with a much more balanced overall workforce in these areas; however, quantity surveying and project management sectors are still very male-dominated. Although the best talent in the industry should be those who move forward and earn their spot, the industry should also recognise that they need more women in leadership and senior management professional roles and should seek to improve how they engage with the female population.
The industry must make an active effort to engage with women from an early age, improve the overall image of the sector to reduce the intimidating connotations and work closely with schools to promote the benefits of a career in the sector. Through promoting the changes to the industry culture and the potential career prospects, construction and quantity surveying can more effectively attract women into roles and reduce the knowledge gap.
Importance of diversification
The industry is in desperate need of diversification. The benefit of diversification, aside from the importance of improving accessibility to roles to people of all demographics, is that it brings new ideas and improves the sustainability of the industry.
Companies are choosing to push more focus onto the younger members of the industry to grow the leaders of tomorrow, within these efforts they are increasing the opportunities to network, putting an increased emphasis on career development and establishing groups to offer extra support.
Readdressing the gender balance and improving inclusivity is paramount to businesses in the sector. An ageing workforce has forced the hands of many employers, who may have otherwise not changed, and lead to the requirement for a more diverse workforce to be established. Diversity needs first to be embedded into the company culture, across the board, without this, the wider changes will not fall into place.