I was recently interviewed by the power & utilities publication SPGlobal regarding my views on female inclusion within the utilities market.
Pondering some of the questions thrown my way I realised that this is an ongoing issue across the wider built environment industry. For the 16 years I have exclusively worked in this arena it has been a hot topic but I am glad to report that traction has been gained.
Below are my further musing on the subject:
- I am often witness to "off the record" conversations when taking briefs from clients. There almost seems to be a pregnant pause after which the client highlights that it would be good to have a couple of females on the shortlist as their boards are made up exclusively of males. This leads to an interesting scenario. I am paid to research, approach and exhaust a given market and discipline. Research lists typically yield between 30 and 80 potential candidates who match the brief. I would fashion a guess that little more than 10-15% of these lists contain female candidates. My job is to fill the position with the best candidate available within a market (not the market, i.e. through reactionary advert respondents). This inevitably leads to a dearth of females on the shortlist
- And so this leads to the question of attracting diversity into the industry further down the hierarchical chain - from graduate level
- I heard a debate three years ago that has stuck with me. The image of construction is not as well received as other industries. Even on a subconscious level, parents lead children (in particular girls) into perceived cleaner, more advanced, refined industries. Girls are given dolls as presents and boys diggers. We therefore, unintentionally, brainwash our children from a young age
- Especially over the past two years, larger, corporate businesses within the industry have driven the built environment as a fun, involved and rewarding place in which to work (look at the work Morgan Sindall has done at local levels with schools, and in the increase in businesses driving apprenticeship schemes). Employer branding has been an increased focus for HR and marketing leaders alike
- Businesses seem to be becoming more accepting and flexible around working conditions, such as work hours and locations. This allows working parents to juggle the need to deal with childcare and hold down a meaningful, progress career (I would argue this is a result of skill shortages rather than driving diversity but hay-ho)
With the above, together with the increased effort schools and the government have put into STEM subjects, it will be interesting to witness how the industry changes over the coming years. I currently have two senior female candidates at final stage interviews, pending decisions, but I am quick to add this is due to them being the best fit against the briefs and nothing to do with gender equality!