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Supporting women in construction

Gender diversity remains an ongoing blindspot within UK trades according to recent industry surveys, despite gradual improvements across some sectors. With just 1% of skilled tradespeople in the construction industry being women, stark divides persist behind the stereotypes.

Moreover, those women defying norms to forge technical careers, highlight lack of support as a primary frustration. So what positive, practical steps can be taken by individual tradesmen and company owners to nurture much-needed inclusivity?

Rethinking Assumptions

Like any meaningful cultural shift, change begins by challenging ingrained assumptions:

Reassess notions of “women’s work”

Practical capability disregards gender. If work quality meets standards, preconceptions around roles should dissolve.

Highlight pioneering tradeswomen

Media visibility matters. Highlighting inspirational women excelling as engineers, electricians and builders makes career paths feel accessible to women.

Stop tolerating “banter”

Zero tolerance policies for inappropriate on-site behaviour creates welcoming environments for all. Progress stalls when talented women in construction feel forced to leave due to toxic workspaces.

Making Recruitment More Inclusive

Subtle but impactful changes to hiring processes proactively welcome capable candidates regardless of gender:

  • Using gender neutral language – Phrase job ads and interview questions without using masculine terminology that could deter applicants.
  • Anonymising applications – Remove identifying candidate details until shortlisting is complete to avoid unconscious bias.
  • Ensuring salary transparency – Eliminate unjustifiable pay gaps. If women in construction know compensation aligns to skills, not gender, job appeals strengthen.

Creating a Welcoming Workplace Culture

Making women in construction feel valued and respected enables long careers. Consider a woman’s viewpoint when implementing supportive policies:

Flexibility is Key 

Starting a family often means adjusting work schedules. Offer reduced hours or flexible days after maternity leave so women don’t have to choose between trades or parenting.

Gear Should Fit Properly

Provide safety equipment and uniforms actually sized for women’s bodies. Poor fitting gear hampers movement and safety.

Closing Skills Gaps

Sponsors external and internal training courses targeting areas women were previously excluded from working on. 

Access to Mentors

Connect women in construction to experienced mentors within the company. Guidance from relatable role models helps navigate obstacles like exclusion or bias.

Getting Every Site Involved

Relying on head office alone rarely improves tradeswomen’s experiences. Instead, get full crews on each site actively improving cultures. Suggestions include:

  • Survey Tradeswomen Regularly – Anonymously collect feedback from women on sites regarding day-to-day respect, safety, and career blockers. Monitor problem areas.
  • Review Site Manager Performances – Make recruiting and supporting more tradeswomen formal goals for site managers. Financially reward those diversifying crews.
  • Compensate Teams Reaching Goals – Pay bonuses to full site teams hitting benchmarks like total mentor hours for young women apprentices provided or percentage of local female recruits employed.

Getting everyone responsible for building inclusive sites makes meaningful change happen faster and endure longer term. 

Celebrating Industry Trailblazers

Perceptions start shifting when talent receives deserved recognition, but tradeswomen pioneers can still lack visibility. Possible ideas include:

  • Internal Promotion – Consistently reference rising standout women in company magazines/newsletters. Bring accomplishments before wider audiences.
  • External Nomination – Put forward top female performers for industry or trade association honours spotlighting technical excellence annually. Make nominations visible internally too.
  • Career Panels – Organise panel events and school talks where senior tradeswomen recount personal journeys overcoming obstacles.
  • Networking Events – At conferences or trades fairs, select tradeswomen attending to actively represent your brand. 

The more prominence role models gain, the more normalised construction careers become for talented women weighing up career paths.

Tradesman Talk

The ultimate aim is creating an environment where women in construction can grow professionally without barriers or difficult trade offs. When recruitment, development and promotion feel equitable, retention strengthens. Here at Tradesman Saver, we’re extremely proud of our history of supporting women in the trades, with affordable tradesperson insurance for both men and women. 

What initial small steps will you be taking to make technical roles more accessible to talented women in 2024? Which support policies or programmes could be strengthened to assist recruitment and retention of tradeswomen at your company going forwards? Share your perspectives below!

Until next time, make sure it’s Tradesman Saver.

Dean Laming

Dean Laming is a Chartered Insurance Broker with more than 25 years insurance experience. Through various underwriting, operational and management roles, Dean has built up extensive knowledge of how to run a business and is now Managing Director of Tradesman Saver, part of the wider Henry Seymour Group.

All articles by Dean Laming

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