The need to improve gender diversity within the construction industry has been at the forefront of conversations for some time. Morgan Sindall explains the importance of closing the gender gap, and bringing more women into construction
While the industry as a whole is moving in the right direction – more women are staying in built environment jobs for longer and a third of women in construction say they have never had a female manager, compared with half in 2018 – much more work needs to be done in order to increase the level of diversity within the sector.
Morgan Sindall Construction’s report ‘Are we Gen Z ready’, revealed that 57% of women aged 16-24 years old are put off working in construction due to the perception that it is a “male-dominated” environment. This perception is borne out by the current demographic makeup of the sector, as less than 15% of the entire workforce in the UK construction industry is represented by women. For trade roles this statistic falls to less than 1%.
The Women into Construction organisation
This is where Women into Construction (WiC) comes in; a not-for-profit organisation which looks to support women into built-environment jobs, and encourage businesses to employ a wider range of people into the industry.
In the 12 years since its inception, WiC has given construction related career advice to more than 2,800 women, provided training to 2,000 and placed more than 920 into employment. WiC works across the UK with Project Managers based in London, Birmingham, Cambridge and Essex as well as providing a virtual offering for other locations.
Morgan Sindall Construction is a supporter of the WiC programme in key areas across the country, including in Norfolk where it is one of the main sponsors of the programme alongside Lovell, EDF Energy and the Department for Work and Pensions. All of these organisations have collaborated on the scheme due to a shared commitment to supporting women into the construction industry.
As an example of the work being undertaken in partnership with WiC, Morgan Sindall Construction has recently recruited an apprentice, Sharla Swinbourne, from the Cambridgeshire WiC scheme. Thanks to WiC’s backing, Sharla was able to advance a recent career change and become a trainee site manager with Morgan Sindall Construction’s Cambridge team.
Sharla’s journey into the construction industry started 18 months before joining the WiC programme, when she moved from a role in the recruitment sector to a position as an onsite labourer in order to gain experience in a new sector.
Being on the WiC scheme meant that she could progress from this position into a management role, as Sharla explains: “Despite having over a year’s onsite experience, I was finding that I didn’t qualify for a lot of the trainee roles being advertised because I lacked the necessary qualifications. I honestly think that I would still be labouring on site had I not engaged with WiC. I’m really grateful for the support they provided in finding what I consider to be my dream job and company.”
New joiners into the construction industry like Sharla are going to be vital in the coming months and years, as the sector grapples with a significant skills and labour shortage. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) is forecasting UK construction output to grow by 5.4%, requiring an additional 258,000 workers by 2025, as the economy and the sector continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic and Brexit-related challenges. Companies therefore need to widen the talent pool and bring new skills and diversity into their businesses.
‘Construction as an industry needs to support more women into construction’
Steph Sheppard, project manager from Women into Construction, said: “Now, more than ever, construction as an industry needs to support more women into construction, and ultimately help them add value to their business.
“Our Social Return on Investment Report demonstrated that for every £1 spent with WiC, we generate up to £6 in social value, which is incredibly beneficial for built environment companies.”
‘Committed to diversifying our workforce’
Helen Clements, social value manager at Morgan Sindall Construction, said: “Morgan Sindall Construction is committed to diversifying our workforce, and it is incredibly important that we move away from the idea that the built environment is inaccessible for women.
“It is clear that by supporting a broader variety of people onto our site and office teams, we will benefit from more a collaborative workforce and ultimately a more robust business.”