We recently ran a series of Women in Construction lunches in several capital cities around the country. It was such a fabulous experience to share a few hours with a group of such wonderful people, so dedicated to the industry, and committed to increasing the role women play in it. We even had some men in attendance!
We asked attendees what they saw as the critical challenges for the industry in raising levels of female participation, and several key themes stood out across the groups:
- Attracting women to the industry
- Retaining women in the industry through all phases of life
- Availability of flexible working arrangements
- Addressing gender bias
These challenges are more complex than they may initially seem. Women represent only 11% of the total workforce in the construction industry. This figure has in fact eroded over the last 5 years. It is clear something in the way this issue is being addressed is fundamentally not working.
Having seen the SBS program this week ‘Is Australia Sexist’ I am reminded of the need to not describe these issues in simple black and white terms. The show went through several scenarios where sexism would be evidenced – such as in online dating scenarios. It also looked at how people would react to witnessing sexual harassment in a workplace. Without diminishing the very real issues which were highlighted, I think the much more insidious problems are the ones which occur in the grey area. The sexual harassment which is not so overt, the biases in recruitment and promotion and the structural issues in our workplaces and employment law which make it difficult for true compromise to be found. I think when we over-simplify the issue we are destined to continue to try to implement naïve solutions which frankly do not work.
I have been advocating for women in industry for more than a decade, and I was delighted to see a program currently being run in the State Emergency Services to introduce girls to the industry and breakdown the stereotypes around the roles available. A really heartfelt congratulations to the organisation for their courage! The item which I think will be critical to the success of that program is that the program is run by a woman in a senior role in the industry. It is so important to evidence that there are options for career advancement if we want young women to gravitate towards these traditionally male dominated industries.
I am so excited to announce several projects we are launching over the next few months which I believe will make a real difference, and provide a platform for change..
Women in Construction 2019 Cohort
We are launching a 2019 cohort of our women in leadership program specifically tailored for women in construction. We have partnered with construction company Gartner Rose to ensure that the content is relevant and really targeted to the challenges within the industry. This program will run over a 12-month period and provide meaningful support and training to participants to take their careers to the next level.
Breakfast Seminar, Lunch and Workshop Series
We will be running a series of breakfast seminars, lunches and workshops on topics relevant to the industry. These events are a great opportunity to learn new skills, consider new ideas and network with other fabulous people in the industry. Our groups are deliberately kept small to increase the value for participants.
Vulnerable Women Program
We have become aware of a huge volume of women who are under-utilised or struggling to gain entry to the workforce. Often they have tertiary qualifications, and have huge value to contribute to an employer. These women might be from a disadvantaged background, have a history with trauma or domestic violence, or be new migrants or refuges. We are partnering with counselling and support organisations to deliver a revolutionary program which will support these women not only into employment but through the first 12 months’ of employment to ensure success. We will provide support to the employing organisation as well to ensure they are receiving maximum value from their new recruit. This program is just so exciting because it can truly change people’s lives, whilst materially contributing to the industry as whole, and organisations individually. It’s a genuine win-win!
As a final note, Hays have released a report relating to diversity and inclusion for 2018. In the survey they have found that only 50% of respondents believed that their organisations leaders understand the link between diversity and attracting the best talent. There is such a body of evidence now for the business and economic case for diversity, it is hard to imagine why leaders are still clinging to the notion that homogenous workforces are better. I would really encourage everyone to investigate how diversity can make their organisation more richer, both in experience and output. Afterall if every organisation made only a small change, in the aggregate we would have such momentum for change and we will all look back in bewilderment for why anything else was ever tolerated.
To find out more about our programs, or to become a program sponsor contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.