General Construction 139 views Sep 07, 2017
Women in construction – stop talking and start training and recruiting

Forget about any preconceived ideas you might have about gender – the fact is – we need more women to work in the construction industry. We have massive skills shortages which are getting worse as more people leave the industry without being replaced.

Fortunately women are embracing the construction challenge and making a significant difference. We have seen the fairly recent formation of Women in Roofing, “an organisation founded to collaborate with all aspects of the roofing industry to achieve diversity and longevity.” With the help of this group, the industry is listening and women are playing a more important role in every area of the supply chain.

This week we have also seen the first Inspire Women in UK Construction, Property and Engineering summit, sponsored by builders merchant Travis Perkins, which took place in Manchester. To quote the publicity material - the Inspire Summit highlights women working in the UK construction, engineering and housing sectors that are bucking the trend, reshaping expectations and inspiring others to follow in their footsteps. The event attracted construction professionals to hear about the contribution that women in these sectors make on a daily basis.

All this is long overdue as we set about addressing the massive talent gap within the construction industry. We in the UK are going to need some 400,000 new people every year for at least the next five years if we are to prosper as an industry.

Then situation is very much the same worldwide. In America it has been estimated that some 2.5 million skilled workers were lost forever from the construction business following the financial collapse in 2008.

However, in 2015 women filled nearly 6.3% of apprentice positions in the state of Massachusetts — up from 4.2% in 2012. Women also accounted for 5% of construction work hours in Boston in 2015. This seems to be typical of what is happening across all of America and we are seeing similar stories in Australia and New Zealand.

Many traditionalists might not welcome the trend mainly because they still wrongly believe that women are not physically as strong or might not be suited to the rigours of a modern building site

This is patent nonsense with several studies showing that women in construction provide a wider pool of opinions and experiences and problem solving. There is also clear evidence that women offer improved decision making, calmer heads and better communication and are less inclined to take dangerous risks – vital with increasing health and safety legislation on construction sites.

It does seem incredible that we are still having this debate in 2017 but hopefully – not for much longer. Let’s stop the talking now and start training and recruiting before it’s too late.

By John Ridgeway

Follow me on Twitter  @JohnRidgeway99