Constructing a better future for women - Aurora Tallon
While there is an increasing number of successful women in the construction and property industries, the percentage of women in construction still only sits at 15.4 per cent; the gender pay gap is 23 per cent, and only 2.7 per cent of apprentices are female, so the industry has far to go to achieve gender parity.
As an architect, I have been in the UK in the industry for ten years, and coming from a different country, I have benefitted from the opportunities and connections from my involvement in Women in Property.
Women in Property is a national influencing and networking membership organisation for the built environment sector, established in 1987 to help improve gender parity in the industry. In March this year, I took on the role of chair of the Central Scotland Branch.
Through Women in Property, I was delighted to join the steering group for the National Equity and Inclusion Plan (NEIP) for the construction industry in Scotland. Launched by the Construction Leadership Forum (CLF), the plan is designed to encourage the development of a more diverse workforce in the construction industry. The working groups brought together stakeholders from across the industry, from large corporations to SMEs, from lawyers to builders and included private and public sectors.
The breadth of opportunities in the sector is immense and trying to mainstream equity and inclusion in an efficient and deliverable plan to cover the whole industry presented quite a challenge. However, the plan was developed and it sets out “Six by 2026” measurable, strategic aims which the CLF is committed to deliver in partnership with both private and public sector stakeholders.
To encourage an early interest in the industry, the Women in Property schools outreach programme takes volunteers from the industry to promote all the different paths available to encourage young girls to choose these career opportunities.
Challenges remain at the senior levels of the industry and there is much to do to resolve the “glass ceiling”, reduce the gender pay gap, and retain female talent at senior levels. One of the key issues for female retention is the return rate after maternity leave.
Statistics show that in the UK there are nearly eight times more women who are “inactive” focussing on family care than men, and when they get back to their professions, women also tend to take more part time positions.
It is worth looking elsewhere for inspiration. In Spain (my original home) childcare is more affordable and the option for full paid paternal leave has been extended to 16 weeks to match maternity leave, giving new parents more flexibility, and allowing mothers to return to work under the same conditions as fathers. I have witnessed the impact of this enhancedpolicy and how it helped my brother engage in the family care while his wife felt empowered to return to work full time.Organisations like Women in Property encourage young women to join the construction and property sectors, and support and connect women throughout their careers, but only with a real upgrade on statutory employment rights we will be able to see gender parity in the sector. It is recognised that companies with greater inclusion and diversity of work force have healthier and more engaged staff, are more able to think diversely and perform better as a result. Sharing knowledge and best practice on equity and inclusion will benefit us all.
Aurora Tallon is chair of Women in Property Central Scotland and Senior Architect at BakerHicks www.womeninproperty.org.uk
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.