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This is the house that Jill built

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

Many historically male-dominated industries are working hard to attract more women. As a lone female voice in the corporate boardroom within a male-dominated industry for many years, I love blogging about industries working towards better balance - last month it was the investment industry, today it’s construction.

Let’s face it, with an industry gender split of 87/13 – there’s a pressing need to get more women into construction at all levels, since better balance is proven to make for better business.

The National Association of Women In Construction (NAWIC) plays a key role in this regard. It's London and South East committee, chaired by the extraordinary Christina Lanz Azcarate, is working relentlessly to change the face of this overwhelmingly male-dominated world. I've gifted my time to support their work, and was asked, but sadly unable, to speak at their national conference today. Instead, I'm sharing five simple steps construction companies can take to encourage more women to join them…

#1 Recruit more women by removing gender bias from job ads

Job ads are likely the first experience someone will have of your company. Research by TotalJobs shows recruitment adverts often contain hidden gender bias, impacting who responds. To help you get it right they’ve created a free Gender Bias Decoder. This topic was eloquently covered by BAM's HR Director, Andrea Singh, at a CN Inspire Me event we both spoke at earlier this year.

Susan Room attending Inspire Me, Bristol

#2 Tell a consistent story

Your (operational) left hand and your (corporate) right hand need to know what each other are doing to tell a coherent story. It’s encouraging to see stories like this raising the voices of women in construction but everything you say and show needs consistently to ladder back to tell that same story. These onsite signs are a perfect example of how messages can reinforce or go awry...

#3 Look for best practice examples

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel: if you see somebody doing something well - replicate it. Examples include but are by no means limited to:

Balfour Beatty, who have a comprehensive and measurable three-year plan to help redress their gender imbalance – it includes some useful recommendations. They were also recognised for their ongoing efforts at this year’s Inspire Awards.

Willmott Dixon who are working to achieve 50:50 gender balance by 2030.

Or the five companies highlighted in this article which are actively promoting women in construction.

#4 Lend your support

Be it attending or sponsoring events; becoming a member of or partnering organisations dedicated to advancing women in construction; or working with suppliers and initiatives helping women into the industry - lend your support at an individual and corporate level. Here are some you may want on your radar:

#5 Dive deeper into diversity

Here are some interesting sources of information for delving more deeply into how to get more women into construction:

Susan Room was a keynote at the March 2019 CN InspireMe conference, and has run pro bono workshops for the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). She is sharing her reflections to mark this year’s NAWIC national conference. Susan is a passionate gender equality advocate – working to help more women get into leadership positions and pursue careers in traditionally male-dominated industries. She's one of the rare few qualified to provide voice and executive coaching. This unique blend of experience sees her helping others feel, look and sound confident – positively improving their professional performance and happiness at work.

Susan Room's Make Your Mark programme is available to women only or mixed groups in the construction industry

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