Constructing a more diverse and inclusive workforce

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are topics that have seen increasing discussion over the years. Organisations are being held more accountable for the diversity within their teams and those that are building more inclusive workforces are reaping the benefits of a more productive team.
Not only is diversity and inclusion within business important to ensure we are striving for gender parity and an equal representation of diverse backgrounds and experiences but in a market short of talent, it is even more crucial. We must ensure we are attracting and developing individuals for the longer-term sustainability of the industry. 
Statistics from the ONS show that some 70.9% of women aged from 16 to 64 are currently in work, the highest employment rate for women since comparable records began in 1971. Women account for approximately 51% of the UK population and around 50% of the UK workforce are female. However, just 14% of all roles in the property and construction sectors are filled by women. 
In addition to this, 11.8% of the working population is from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background but only 5.5% of all roles in construction and property are filled by BAME candidates. This imbalance in the sectors means the industry faces a real challenge in striving to reflect the working population and communities it serves. 
Newly established government targets for women on boards and mandatory gender pay gap reporting add another challenge for a traditionally male-dominated sector. Organisations who do not invest in D&I activities that promote the hiring and retention of a diverse workforce, carry a brand reputation risk and are missing out on a competitive advantage.

The reputation of a male-dominated sector

It is not surprising that there is are strongly held stereotypes surrounding a career in property and construction. Those considering their options have preconceived ideas of what a role or career in the industry would entail. An online survey targeted at 16-25-year-olds, commissioned by Keepmoat in early 2017, revealed some of these stereotypes. 
The research found that just 13% of female respondents said they would consider a career in the construction industry, compared to 21% of males. Some of the reasons these women listed included ‘limitations for women to progress’ (46%), ‘high proportion of men in the business makes it intimidating’ (47%), ‘roles are limited to on-site work’ (29%) and ‘the field is strenuous’ (30%). Clearly, there are issues with the reputation our industry currently has among the younger generation of job seekers and if we want to attract a more diverse range of people into property, we need to address these reputational problems. 

Inclusive leadership and hiring

To help overcome these stereotypes it is key to ensure you are advertising your vacancies in locations where diverse candidates will see them. Partner with organisations who promote diversity such as Stonewall and use recruitment service providers who have a clear strategy for recruiting from a diverse range of candidates. Use proprietary software to screen adverts and remove unconscious bias before posting, actively promote apprenticeship programmes to encourage new talent into the sector from diverse backgrounds who will become the future leaders.
It is important to recognise that diversity and inclusion is a competitive opportunity to attract candidates in a sector that has a huge skills shortage. Since the equal pay act of 1970 and the equality act of 2010, the momentum towards equality and diversity has continued and any business that does not take this seriously will be left behind. While there are some areas of the industry, such as architecture and project planning, that we are seeing a rise in the number of women there is still a lot that needs to be done for the industry to become truly diverse and inclusive. 
So what needs to be done to improve gender parity in the industry? Sheri Hughes, UK Diversity and Inclusion Director at PageGroup had this to say; “Role models are needed from a young age. Young girls need to be inspired at primary school about the vast array of careers that are available to them and not just the ones society portrays to be appropriate/attainable for females! Highlight and celebrate the senior females in the industry.”
There needs to be more of a focus on increasing the awareness of the industry and the options within the sector. There are a number of organisations that operate with the goal of changing the face of the industry to help encourage more women into the sector and to ensure a more diverse pool of professionals are aware of the opportunities. Go Construct is an example of such a site that showcases the career opportunities available in the sector to help inspire people to consider a career in property and construction, enable people to discover what a career in the sector is really like and experience what is like for themselves. Women into Construction is another organisation highlighting the opportunities within the sector with a specific focus on women in the industry. 
These companies represent what should be aspired to in terms of actively driving the equality initiative in the sector. This commitment to push change is something all businesses, in all sectors, should be inspired by and learn from. If you proactively commit your business to achieving a diverse and inclusive workforce you will not only benefit from the many positives, such as increased productivity and higher retention rates, you will also be driving change in the wider world of business. 
If you would like any more information, or to discuss how we can help with your recruitment needs, please do get in touch. Alternatively, submit a job spec and one of our specialist consultants from your local market will call you back. 
Mark Beacom
Operating Director, Michael Page
T: +44 161 829 0411