Our mission to be a more gender-balanced construction company
Do you know what percentage of the UK construction workforce is female? Just 14%.
Not surprising, you might say. Construction has always been a male-dominate sector.
Here’s another statistic for you: according to the 2018 Women Count report, which counts the number of women in executive roles among the FTSE350 companies, just 4% of senior P&L roles at the 20 largest listed construction companies are held by women.
Before you start probing into the gender mix at AB Group, we’ll come clean. We are part of the problem. We too have evolved as a male-dominated company but we are aware of the problem and we are changing. We want to be part of the solution.
What is AB Group doing to equalise its gender balance?
The first rule of change is to recognise that you have a problem. The second is to do something about it. We have partnered with Women into Construction to help us understand how we can encourage more women to apply for roles within our company and to help us develop women into senior leadership roles.
Women into Construction is a not-for-profit organisation which provides support to women who want to work in the construction industry and to contractors who are keen to address the gender imbalance in the industry. As such it helps to bridge the gap between highly motivated, well trained women with a lot to offer to the sector, and contractors looking to change their recruitment methods in order to take on more women.
One of our colleagues, Account Manager Sophie Hayzer, has been liaising with Women into Construction and attending their forums and workshops. “They can come and provide D&I training, do workshops around unconscious bias, gender pay gap etc. The next workshop is called Move On Up – Tackling the Gender Pay Gap for Women in Construction.”
But it’s not just about what we do internally; we need to align with our clients and suppliers to establish a coordinated and consistent approach to building a diverse workforce. And we want to work with like-minded people. To this end, Sophie has also been involved with one of our key clients, the Co-Op, and its Women in Property 2022 cohort, which focuses on development of women in the property sector.
What’s it like being a woman in construction?
Sophie joined AB Group as Account Manager in 2021. Prior to that she worked client side for nine years in property and facilities management within the fashion retail and then food retail sectors.
“I don’t think I’ve been held back by gender bias,” she says, though she has encountered unconscious bias. “In the fashion world in particular, if I went on site to meet a centre manager, they would assume I was the Store Manager, not the Maintenance Manager.
“You have to be brave. Know that you have a purpose within the room. If you’re the only woman in the room with three male colleagues or suppliers, you’re there with a purpose so be confident and brave enough to use your voice. You have earned your place around that table.”
“I feel really passionately about developing women into leadership roles and getting that balance, from engineering through to senior leadership. It will benefit our business going forward and rebalance the percentage of women in construction and senior leadership in general. We have a lot of females in admin at AB Group that we want to develop, and there’s our HR Manager, Harriet Mewis, but the on-site presence is still missing. We don’t have any female Project Managers or engineers yet and we’re keen to change that.
“AB Group is a very flexible company. I work permanently from home and, while I don’t have any children myself, there are mothers and fathers in the company that I know drop their children off at school, take their children swimming at lunch time etc and I see the business supporting that.”
How does a gender-balanced workforce benefit the company?
Sophie is not wrong when she says that rebalancing the percentage of women in senior roles will benefit our business. There are compelling statistics to prove that gender equality is not just a social principle, it’s a profit driver too.
Every year the Women Count report highlights the performance of gender-balanced FTSE350 companies versus those still heavily male-biased. The 2021 report showed the following figures for last year:
|% of women on executive board||Profit/loss|
The pattern is the same every year: the higher the percentage of women you have on your board, the more profitable your business will be. That’s one reason why it’s important to us to rebalance our workforce and help to redress the male bias within construction as a whole. The other is simply because it’s the right thing to do.
With the help of Women into Construction and the commitment of colleagues like Sophie, we’re getting there. Come and join us.
If you’re a woman looking for opportunities in construction, please get in touch. Call HR on +44 (0)333 9000 180 or write to HR on HR@abgroup.com.