17 February 2021
Businesses in the construction industry have begun making improvements to their gender diversity and equality policies in response to a series of workshops by Silverstone Park developer MEPC.
Its ‘Women Into Construction’ group has held four of 12 planned monthly workshops to promote greater diversity and inclusivity amongst main contractors’ workforces.
The group aims to so start a cultural shift in construction and make the industry a more attractive career option – particularly for women and young people.
The group was instigated by Roz Bird, MEPC’s Commercial Director at Silverstone Park, and is led by Automotive 30% Club founder Julia Muir, author of the book ‘Changed the Game: A leader’s route map to a winning, gender-balanced business’.
The UK has one of the lowest percentages of women working on construction sites in Europe, a statistic Roz recently described as “woeful”.
Amongst the contractors to have upped its game is civil and ground engineering specialist Forkers Ltd, which recently installed a major utilities trench at Silverstone Park.
Its HR Administrator Roisin Robotham explained: “We’ve drawn up a new code of conduct that has gone to all of our employees and sub-contractors who we expect to sign up to it, and started research with recruitment agencies about women coming into roles such as site managers, site engineering and quantity surveying.
“We’ve also conducted an anonymous survey amongst employees – about how they think we are being diverse as a company. We have over 200 employees and the feedback so far has been interesting.”
Roisin continued: “Construction can be a way out of the jobs shortage in the pandemic – the vacancies are there – so we’d certainly like to see promotion of inclusivity and diversity coming from higher up, such as government and the bigger industry bodies.”
Demolition specialist Armac Group’s Business Development Manager Andrew Dudley agrees.
He said: “I believe there needs to be an industry wide shift, from ourselves as contractors through to the main contractor groups and clients – it should include training providers and labour agencies as the construction industry can provide an opportunity for all. It’s a credit to Roz and MEPC for getting the ball rolling and trying to effect change.”
Andrew added: “The Women Into Construction group has certainly made us think about our processes and inclusivity – basic stuff that perhaps hasn’t been questioned before.
“For example, all of our method statements were gender specific and had been written as ‘he’ or ‘him’ – it was frustrating that we hadn’t picked up on this previously.
“As a result, we’ve reviewed all of our documents and policies to correct this. In addition, we’ve undertaken some equality and diversity training and will be rolling it out across the entire business…”
“The great thing about the working group is the variety of different business, all with different challenges. I think it provides a good sample of the type of businesses that make up the construction industry and will hopefully provide a model of success for the industry moving forward.”