Let’s build a female future for our industry

Construction minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan calls on the sector to be a more attractive employer for women
Asian woman on construction site. Image: Dreamstime
Image: Dreamstime

Hard hats, diggers and drills. Looking back to my childhood, from the toys we played with to the careers advice on offer, the construction site was often painted as a physically demanding, macho environment. I loved Meccano and puzzles, but the world of construction seemed entirely male.

Now, I stand proud as the second female UK construction minister in history, with a sector that accounts for 8% of GDP and the opportunity to highlight that construction represents a fantastic career for women – hard hats and all.

It’s no secret the construction industry is still lagging behind many others when it comes to gender equality. In 2019, only one in eight UK construction workers were women.

Equality in the workplace is about breaking down barriers, and it is important we pursue it not least because diversity is good for business. Opportunities for all – from apprenticeships through to managerial positions – can lead to better decision-making and improved performance across the board.

“In 2019, only one in eight UK construction workers were women”

What’s more, often diverse project teams better reflect the clients. They are more likely to be leaders in innovation, build infrastructure suitable for all and can show more empathy towards – and secure the trust of – a diverse customer base.

Drawing on a wider pool of candidates for roles is also good for business. It ensures they aren’t missing out on valuable insights that may be missed. This could help alleviate the industry’s wider skills shortages.

At a time of unprecedented government investment in the industry – with a £600bn investment pipeline over the next 10 years – now is the time for construction to become more representative of the society it builds for.

Let’s try and change the image of the industry some see as an unwelcoming environment for a woman’s career. From diversifying companies’ recruitment practices, to calling out sexism on the building site where we see it, companies must focus on making the sector a more attractive employer for a wider talent pool.

However we get there, my point today is clear: the industry needs more women. And it starts with you.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan is minister for business, energy and clean growth (including the construction brief) at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

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