The problem is actually a myriad of components, some nationwide or well-recognised, some localised or specific. These include a lack of understanding about the sector by careers advisors and parents, an ongoing preference for higher education, and a disconnection between school subjects and the careers they can become. This diagram highlights just some of the issues within ‘Education’, ‘Aspiration’, ‘Influence’, and ‘Sector Reality’.
And although it is often stated that the perception of the industry needs to be changed in order to attract women, the fact remains that it is more important to change the reality than simply distort the perception.
Years of underinvestment in the future of the sector (a pattern that was already coming to the attention of many prior to the recession) has tainted education’s understanding of construction and that won’t be undone by some apprentice schemes and open days.
Rather than simply pushing the blame to careers advisors, parents and students themselves for their outdated views, the opportunity exists to create a sector that is more resilient, more professional and more diverse, exploiting many of the changes that are already beginning to gain support.
To achieve real change, these issues all have to be tackled – from the individual boss who tells an aspiring female employee that she can’t ever be good at her job “because she’s a girl”, all the way to addressing the silos that exist in construction disciplines.
And the way we start that process is to respect each other, talk to each other, understand the importance of others in our own supply chain. Because if we don’t say positive things about others in the sector, why would anyone standing outside looking in want to be part of it?
Great things are happening! Let’s start taking ourselves seriously, and celebrating the good work that the sector is doing.