Time for action on women in construction

For the construction industry to flourish in the upturn it must embrace equality instead of paying lip service Judy Lowe, Deputy Chair of CITB said today.

Speaking at the launch of the Smith Institute Report – ‘Building the future: women in construction’ at the House of Commons Judy Lowe said:

‘This report shows, that the construction industry has done very little to address a culture which too often focuses on recruiting women, not retaining them and then wonders why it has to recruit more. It’s time that Government and Industry woke up to the need to do things differently.

‘The best companies and industry bodies are leading by example but across the board, recruitment and retention of women is abysmal . As we emerge from the down turn the construction industry has got to stop ignoring 51 per cent of the population.

‘Since I joined the industry in 1996 there have been a number of initiatives to attract more women into the industry but none of them has delivered long term change.

‘In part, I suspect this is because with a substantial, well qualified male workforce at its disposal there has been little incentive to make those changes in culture and working environment that would encourage women to see construction in a new light.

‘Now, however, we are facing a skills timebomb. Latest figures show that there will need to be 180,000 new construction jobs in the next 5 years and yet in the next 10 years 400,000 members of the current workforce will retire. If an incentive is needed then this, surely, is it.

‘No industry can hope to excel when it so consistently underperforms in attracting and retaining one half of the population. Demographics, economics and, at the lowest level, corporate self-interest all point to the need for a rethink.

‘It’s now time to act differently. Individual company initiatives will not shift an industry of 250,000 businesses. We need to take a whole-industry view. It’s no use training women if the industry is unable to place them appropriately. No use recruiting more, if we fail to retain them. No use retaining them if we fail to promote them. And no use promoting them if an innate paternalism prevents them taking up their full role. This totality demands a really deep rethink and a wholesale culture change.’