The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors is stepping up its drive to encourage more women and people from diverse backgrounds into construction roles by launching the Inclusive Employer Quality Mark - an initiative to make the land, property and construction sector more inclusive and diverse.

The move comes a year after a think-tank report highlighted that just 1.2% of workers in the construction sector were women.

In its Building The Future: Women In Construction report, the Smith Institute highlighted Office for National Statistics data that showed the number of women working as roofers, bricklayer and glaziers was so low they were unmeasurable.  

Siobhan McMahon, chair of the National Association of Women in Construction, believes retention is the biggest issue that needs tackling.

“NAWIC can showcase women right across the industry who are working at every level,” she says. “But there needs to be a refocus on why women are not staying in construction careers. If they figure that out that’s when we’ll be able to retain them.

“There’s a perceived lack of flexibility, especially when you have kids, and that there’s not much support and that it gets more difficult.”

Siobhan also wants careers advisers in schools can play a greater role in encouraging more girls to consider a career in the construction sector.  

“They think it’s all hard hats and muddy boots,” says Siobhan. “As soon as you use the phrase ‘built environment’ and talk to them about design and architecture, they say ‘I never thought of it like that’. Children are being taught all wrong.”

Christine Curran, of Galliford Try Partnerships (GRP) North, supports this view.  “Construction is still male-dominated but I don’t think people understand the roles that are available – they think we’re all bricklayers,” she says.

“A lot of my job is facilitating and problem solving, so I work with planners, cost consultants, architects – the whole range – and having women on the team helps to deliver a better balance.”

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Image credit: Stephen Craven

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