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Baxi roundtable explores improved opportunities for women in construction

Following the launch of the Construction Inclusion Coalition in September, founder member Baxi hosted a roundtable discussion at RIBA, The Royal Institute of British Architects, focused on addressing gender imbalance and other equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) considerations in the construction industry.

Baxi Roundtable (left to right) Victoria Jones, Global Vice President of ED&I at AtkinsRéalis; Sam Grierson, Customer Proposition Director & EDI Chair for Wolseley Group; Dr Susan Scurlock MBE, CEO and founder of Primary Engineer, Natascha Engel, Co-founder and CEO of Palace Yard and former Deputy Speaker at Westminster, and Carolyn Reed, HR director at Baxi Heating UK and Ireland

The roundtable was hosted by Karen Boswell OBE, who was joined by 10 experienced leaders from around the sector, including from Wolseley, AtkinsRealis, Builders Merchants Federation and Baxi’s own HR Director, Carolyn Reed. The aim of the discussion was to answer the question: how can the sector and supply chain improve its attractiveness to women, and what can be done to improve retention rates and reduce women leavers?

Recent CIC research has found that only 15% of construction sector workers are women, and just 6% are from ethnic minority backgrounds. Yet a CIC poll of over 2000 UK adults in July 2023 found that 46% of people said they would be more likely to look for roles in construction if the sector demonstrated a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The group identified a number of barriers preventing women from entering the industry and considered ways to overcome them, including greater collaboration, gender neutral communication, increased relevance, better job design and a stronger expression of the social value created by the sector in order to attract people with a desire to participate with a sense of purpose.  

The discussion landed on three areas where companies across the sector could quickly start to make changes to improve their attractiveness to women: 

• Allyship. Identify leaders to partner with women workers in traditionally male dominant areas of the business, to better understand their experience of the work place. Then embed this awareness into leadership decision making and board level discussions. 

• Communication: Change visual, written and spoken communication, so that it better relates to women and their expectations.  Use software / AI tools such as Microsoft office software or similar to identify problematic language and phrases and replace with gender neutral language.  

• Collaboration: Use existing and new shared platforms to amplify the value of a diverse sector and to embed new attitudes and behaviours that more align with a gender neutral workplace and equal opportunity. 

Speaking after the event, Karen Boswell said: “It’s essential that we keep up momentum following the CIC’s launch during the recent UK Construction Week, to make sure EDI stays firmly on the agenda across the construction sector.  I didn’t want another talking shop and I’m really pleased that we have arrived at some tangible, practical and relatively easy steps that I’m confident will help make a difference”. 

The construction sector is facing a significant skills challenge in the years ahead if it can’t attract new talent from the whole spectrum of the work force. “We must ensure that everyone feels comfortable in their role regardless of gender and background – there is a growing body of evidence that clearly points to the improved commercial and reputational performance of companies who embrace diversity and use it to innovate, engage and collaborate to delight customers.”  said Karen. 

The full report following the discussion is available to download here. Baxi hopes that its roundtable discussion becomes a catalyst for cross-industry collaboration to help address the obvious gender imbalance in the sector. 

23 November 2023

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