The CIF celebrated International Women’s Day (8th March) by hosting an event at the Morrison Hotel, Dublin, where it published results from a survey that showed marked changes in attitudes towards female construction workers.
Speakers at the CIF’s International Women’s Day event, l to r: Marcia Bonham, Managing Director, Kingspan Insulated Panels Ireland; Nellie Reid, Managing Director, Meehan Green; Gary Kennedy, Co-Chair, Better Balance for Better Business Initiative; Lorraine Brady, Design Manager, BAM Ireland; Pat Lucey, President, CIF; Susan O’Mara, Financial Services Consultant, Milestone Advisory; and Tom Parlon, Director General, CIF.
L to r: Barry Thornton, Murdock Builders Merchants; Rachel Corbally, CIOB; and Pat Lucey, President, CIF.
Results from a CIF survey of women working in the construction industry revealed that 85% of women currently working in the construction industry would recommend that younger female relatives or friends explore construction as a career option. A total of 84% feel that they have been supported by their male colleagues in their career progression to date, with the majority (73%) reporting that there has been a significant, positive change in attitudes across the industry towards female workers in recent times.
But progress still needs to be made in some areas.
According to the survey carried out by CIF, 72% of respondents say that the construction industry has difficulty retaining female workers, with some respondents citing a lack of flexibility in working hours for those (both male and female workers) with families as the main reason for this. The majority of respondents added that this was more of a societal issue affecting women across many industries rather than just women involved in construction.
Challenges for Female Workers
In addition, 50% of respondents reported that they have experienced challenges regarding welfare/toilet facilities on sites, but many stated that facilities have improved dramatically in recent years, while some issues persist on smaller sites and at the beginning of projects.
Some 69% reported that they felt they had been treated differently by colleagues in construction because of their gender, with some suggesting that these differences were positive (eg their colleagues were less likely to raise their voices during discussions), and in general they were treated more politely than their male colleagues). Others reported more negative incidents of ‘mansplaining’ during meetings and the perception of females as ‘bossy’ when outspoken, particularly when it came to the older generation of male colleagues.
However, 73% of those surveyed feel that the industry is welcoming to female workers, while over 78% reported that the construction industry is becoming a more diverse and inclusive workplace for all, regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, etc.
Pictured at the CIF #BuildingEquality International Women’s Day Breakfast Seminar, l to r: Fiona Cunningham, Eimear O’Reilly, Natalie Ryan, Paula Voiseux, Alison Xu, Oxana Novikova, Rebecca Hughes, Marci Bonham, Suzanne Cooper, Michaela Courtney and Shauna McDermott.
In September 2018, the CIF published the first ‘Diversity and Inclusion Membership Guidance Document’ to aid member companies in their efforts to build a more diverse and inclusive industry.
As part of #BuildingEquality, the CIF’s ongoing campaign to increase female participation and encourage greater diversity and inclusion in the construction industry, the CIF marked International Women’s Day by celebrating the achievements of women in the industry by hosting an event at the Morrison Hotel in Dublin.
Speakers included Pat Lucey, CIF President and Regional Managing Director for Civils Ireland, John Sisk and Son; Nellie Reid, Managing Director, Meehan Green; Lorraine Brady, Design Manager, BAM Ireland; Marci Bonham, Managing Director, Kingspan Insulated Panels Ireland; Gary Kennedy, Co-Chair of the Government’s Better Balance for Better Business Initiative and Chair of Greencore Plc; and Susan O’Mara, Financial Services Consultant with Milestone Advisory.
Female role models
In her presentation, Lorraine Brady said female role models are the key to changing perceptions about careers in construction.
“We need to normalise construction as a potential career for women by engaging with young girls at primary school level. Any later and the opportunity will be gone, as we need those young girls to be choosing technical subjects when they first enter second-level education.”
She also said that there need to be more women seen in senior roles and that construction can only be seen as a rewarding career if there is equal pay for equal work.
A changing sector
CIF President Pat Lucey said that the construction industry is beginning to see great change.
“Companies are moving in the right direction and working hard to make the industry a more diverse and inclusive workplace for all,” he said. “There is no doubt that construction has traditionally been considered a male-dominated industry, but it is time to change that perception and, to an extent, that reality; not because it currently suits us to do so due to the skills shortage the industry is experiencing, but because it is the right thing to do. Promoting greater diversity is the right thing to do for efficiency, for creativity, for innovation and for a wider perspective.”
He continued, “We cannot afford to lag behind other industries any longer. We must look to best practice and delve deeper into the barriers to entry, or indeed retention issues, which have affected or continue to affect our potential or actual female colleagues for far too long.
Recruit qualified women
“The reality of the skills shortage we are now experiencing is that in the short-term we need to recruit qualified women from Ireland, internationally and the diaspora for particular roles in the industry and into management in our companies.”
The CIF President added that in the medium to long-term, the industry needs to recruit more women generally.
“If we don’t, millennials, both male and female, who do not just want diversity in the workplace but have come to expect it, will not enter the industry, and those who do will not stay.”
Over 200 people attended the CIF International Women’s Day breakfast seminar event, which is sponsored by CPAS/Milestone Advisory, Mercury Engineering, Kingspan, TopCon, Philip Lee, Collen Construction, Eaton, Glenveagh Properties PLC, BAM, Flynn Management and Contractors, Walls Construction and Hilti Ireland.
For more information on the CIF’s #BuildingEquality campaign including blogs from a variety of female role models working in construction and the latest videos, visit www.cif.ie/building-equality