Joint Publisher Anthony Parker

James Parker


As a dad with a new baby, I know how hard it can be juggling the many challenges of work with the more considerable challenges of keeping a small human fed, washed and entertained. While it should be otherwise, women still bear by far the greatest burden in our society when it comes to childcare, and if construction wants to fix the huge gender diversity mismatch, it needs to change its attitude on flexible working.

All responsible employers talk about it being a good thing, but how many are allowing it to happen in practice? The industry wants to make itself more attractive to female applicants, but how far has it gone to provide the work/life balance that’s increasingly required?

It’s one of the key factors that is still putting large numbers of women off joining the industry, beyond the persistent stigma of construction still being too blokey, and even openly sexist. While the worst and most obvious excesses like wolf-whistling may now be consigned to the past, are there more persistent, more subtle obstacles around flexible working?

Half of the firms that responded to a 2018 Construction News survey said they had never had a female manager. The role models are still in short supply for women looking at the industry as a possible career path. A shocking 48 per cent of women said they had experienced discrimination, and you wonder if part of this was a lack of flexibility on employers’ part to help make jobs fit better around peoples’ lives.


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In desk roles, it’s not beyond the reason of at least larger firms to offer flexible start/finish times, job sharing or working from home where productivity isn’t hampered. In fact, it might be enhanced due to having a less stressed, happier colleague.

While there are small mercies – 16 per cent of senior roles are occupied by women – the pay gap is still shameful, averaging 36 per cent. Construction is one of the worst of UK industries on pay, representing a failure to reward not only women’s skills, but also to deal with the fact their priorities may shift as life progresses. It presumably also reflects the fact that site work is hugely male dominated – 99 per cent males in fact.

The move to offsite may well be one key means of addressing the latter imbalance. The increased move to far cleaner indoor methods, not requiring staff to jump when called onto site in all weathers could be a much needed lever for flexible working, and support a greater role for women in hands-on construction in general.


Developer Retirement Villages provides a sociable mix of apartments and cottages on a sloping site in the Essex village of Newport

As well as childcare, both sexes may be caring for ageing relatives. While SMEs may never find it easy to offer fully flexible terms, making provision for staff to balance their lives with work, and trusting them, will in turn glean that trust as well as respect from staff, leading to better results. It’s not easy, but it’s good business, and means you’ll keep the best staff.

© Retirement Villages go to page 30


Managing Editor James Parker

Assistant Editor Jack Wooler

Editorial Assistant Roseanne Field

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Sales Executives Suzanne Easter Kim Friend

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