Lesley Quinn: How can we build a future with more female leaders?
City Building launched its first-ever working group dedicated to boosting female representation in March of this year.
At City Building we have long led the way in pursuing equality in the workplace, even commissioning an independent report by respected consultants GenAnalytics to ensure we had an effective benchmark to measure our progress.
One of its most welcome findings was that we had a 50/50 gender split in our management team and we have the highest proportion of female craft trade apprentices in Scotland.
Skip forward a few years, and we are still successful at attracting young women into an industry that has traditionally been male dominated.
But as some of our senior women retire, it has become clear to me that the challenge is not simply about recruiting female candidates.
We also need to develop a pipeline of women who are willing to step into leadership positions and ensure they are not held back by historic barriers that are no making of their own.
Throughout my career, first in politics as another male-dominated field at the time, and since in construction, a range of external factors, including maternity leave, childcare issues, a lack of mentors and role models, and in some cases downright discrimination have prevented progression for women.
While it has been rewarding to see both sectors become more accessible, there is no denying that there is a job to be done in ensuring women can reach their full potential. Having women in construction is no longer enough; we need the industry to be led by women too.
In March of this year, City Building launched its first-ever working group dedicated to boosting female representation across the business. From construction workers to HR staff to customer relations, the Gender Equality in the Workplace group is assembled from women of all levels of seniority to allow for a broad reflection of the business. Those within the group will gather insight into general feeling amongst female colleagues and consider how a clear pathway to senior leadership can be achieved for everyone within City Building.
The group will also be a safe space to express views and build confidence, empowering one another and those who work alongside to transform the sector. I am extremely proud of City Building for stepping up to tackle the issue, and it is my hope that every woman within the business feels they are supported in reaching their potential, without sacrificing other commitments within their life.
Securing a diverse workforce has numerous benefits for a business like ours. The danger of groupthink is minimised and problems can be approached from new angles. Some households feel more comfortable inviting a woman to carry out repairs.
Aside from the frontline, the industry benefits from role models of all backgrounds in leadership roles, who can inspire the next generation.
This can create cyclical representation, as younger employees can see themselves in their managers, and so on.
In her memoir, Becoming, Michelle Obama, daughter of a tradesman, said: “No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women.”
I would urge every business to contemplate what, or who, is missing at each level.
Consider how you can achieve equality and dedicate the time and effort required to remedy any gaps. Recognising and nurturing talent within your staff is an investment which will be returned many times over in productivity and job satisfaction. It makes business sense, not just common sense, and can transform the environment in which you operate.
I know many women in construction who are strong, bright and skilled, yet I still know too few. The same can be said for ethnic minorities, or those with disabilities, of whom there is even less representation. However, the industry is evolving and there is a noticeable shift which indicates a more socially conscious and sustainable future ahead.
City Building’s Gender Equality in the Workplace is part of that revolution, and you could be too.
Lesley Quinn is head of business support at City Building