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8th Mar 2018

Women in Construction Summit

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, myself and female colleagues attended the Women in Construction Summit this week. The day’s speakers discussed ways to overcome the challenge of recruiting and retaining women in construction, their insights and experiences as leading women in the industry, and case studies for the benefits of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).

The Summit was chaired by real-life Wonder Woman Manon Bradley, winner of 11 World Championships in weight lifting and Development Director of the Major Projects Association. She talked about her organisation’s Gender Balance Initiative, highlighting studies that have shown a gender-balanced workforce leads to increased profitability, yet statistics show that there are fewer women at every level of career progression within construction and so we need to start working together to find solutions to retain the knowledge and talent.

The second speaker, Marina Robertson, Director of Operations (London) at NPS Group, gave her thoughts on overcoming these challenges – advocating academic subjects that lead to construction-related qualifications, encouraging women to choose the industry, supporting women wishing to start families or care for relatives to stay in construction, providing opportunities for women returning to the industry, and motivating women to choose construction as a career change. Closing the gender pay gap, offering flexible working and promoting diversity and inclusion are key ways to start making a difference.

Throughout the day we listened to some fantastic presentations and key takeaways on succeeding as a woman in construction were:

  1. Be persistent
  2. Find a mentor
  3. Seize every opportunity
  4. Believe in yourself
  5. Share your success with others. 

In the year of #MeToo and the release of Gender Pay Gap data in the UK, it was encouraging to listen to representatives of Tideway and High Speed 2 (HS2) talk about the work being done to improve Gender Parity and EDI in the sector.

In 2014, the CEO of Tideway, Andy Mitchell, pledged to reach gender parity by the end of the project in 2023. In an industry where women represent only 13% of the workforce, Tideway’s current achievement of 37% women should be celebrated. Tideway has also been trialling blind recruitment where names and gender are removed from applications, which resulted in gender parity at the shortlisting stage and a significant increase in the number of women hired by the organisation. This shows an equal number of qualified female construction professionals exist but that unconscious bias, amongst other factors, is preventing them from landing roles within the industry.

Kate Hall, Design Director at HS2, and Alice Jennison, EDI Manager from Costain-Skanska Joint Venture, talked about the project’s approach to improving EDI by writing in policies and practices into all contracts. With only a 3% difference between a winning contract and the runner-up, the non-technical aspect of the bid can be the deciding factor on this £60 billion+ project and I anticipate that we will be seeing an increasing number of projects where EDI targets will be expected throughout the supply chain.

As the Summit came to a close, there sat over 500 inspired and empowered women who work in the immensely rewarding field of construction, women who are leaders in this industry today and those who will be tomorrow’s leaders. As we celebrate the achievements of women today, in construction and otherwise, let us also reflect on how we can work together to support women achieve their potential.

Laurel Kiryluk, Assistant Quantity Surveyor

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