Education is the key to attracting women into the construction industry, according to female house building staff who attended a special event organised by a national home builder.
With a need to increase skilled labour in construction to meet the housing demand, and with only a small percentage of those working within the industry being female, Bovis Homes brought together women from across its business to find out how this could be changed.
“Since women were given the right to vote 100 years ago, there have been huge strides in the rights for women and equality, but females are still in the minority within the house building sector,” says Vicky Beckwith, Head of Human Resources at Bovis Homes. “We are aware that there is a certain perception of the industry and we're keen to try and change this.”
The 100 years, 100 women event saw Bovis Homes employees from a range of backgrounds discuss what could be done to increase the number of women working in construction. The day included speeches from Lt Col Katie Hislop, who talked about her experiences as a female within the Armed Forces, and Jenny Herdman, the director for the Home Building Skills Partnership.
“It was really interesting day, which will not only help us to move forward as a company, but also help the industry as a whole,” explains Vicky. “As well as having a range of break-out sessions where ideas were fed back to the room, we also asked the attendees a variety of questions to help us find out and explore what they felt were the important factors in helping to encourage women into the industry.”
In response to 'How can we encourage women to work on our sites?' and 'What can we do to improve the number of women working in housing building?' the most popular answer was 'education'.
“We've noticed at many of the career fairs that we've attended that girls seem to bypass us, thinking that house building is a job for men. However, there's so much variety and opportunity within the sector and we think we need to start changing these perceptions and encourage more women,” says Vicky.
Bovis Homes employs nearly 1,280 people, with 38 per cent women. The house builder currently employs 13 women on its developments as site managers, assistant site managers and in trades.
“There are huge opportunities working within construction. If you work for a house builder, it doesn't necessarily mean you are working out on a building site. We have jobs ranging from marketing, sales and graphics to commercial, technical and surveying. We've had women start in these roles, and then move to more site-based roles, or vice versa,” explains Vicky.
Rachel Colin currently works as an assistant site manager at Bovis Homes' Didcot location.
She said: “As part of my architectural engineering degree, I did a year in placement and as part of this I worked out on site – and I loved it!
“I really enjoy that every day is completely different. You can go to work thinking that you know what the day holds, and then it will completely change! I really like the problem-solving aspect of it and the organisation and project management side of the job too. The tradesmen are really down-to-earth and straight-talking and it's great being outside.”
Bovis Homes is now evaluating the results from its polls and reviewing suggestions made by its staff as it looks at implementing ideas to encourage more women into the company and the industry.