Women need to play more transformative role in construction

Paul Godfrey, events and conference producer, CPI Trade Media at the 2021 Women in Construction Summit in Dubai
Paul Godfrey, events and conference producer, CPI Trade Media at the 2021 Women in Construction Summit in Dubai

Rohma Sadaqat

Published: Mon 6 Dec 2021, 5:35 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Dec 2021, 5:42 PM

Women in the construction sector will need to play a more transformative role that sees them take up more senior level leadership positions, which will, in turn, create more awareness about the opportunities that are available for young women to enter the industry, experts said at the fifth Women in Construction Summit said.

Industry leaders at the 2021 edition of the event, taking place in Dubai, discussed several key topics including ways to increase recruitment and improve retention; how to acknowledge and remove gender bias from their work culture; and developing training programmes specific to the needs of women.

In his opening address, Paul Godfrey, events and conference producer, CPI Trade Media, highlighted why it is important to include more women in the hiring process, and to encourage women to become role models for other women.

“According to the International Labour Office, the percentage of women employed by the largest construction companies worldwide is only 10.3 per cent,” he said.

Even smaller, he revealed, is the number of women on the front lines of a job site - only one for every 100 employees in the field. Considering that women make up 48 per cent of all employed individuals, this means that the construction industry is only benefitting from about 1.28 per cent of women in the workforce.

A 2020 report by McKinsey & Co, reveals that the most gender-diverse companies are 25 per cent more likely to achieve above-average profitability than companies with less diversity. With 2021 shaping up to be a year of growth for the industry, hiring more women is an optimal way to capitalize on that expansion. The report also found that construction companies with more women in executive line roles than staff roles experienced above-average financial performance compared to those companies that didn’t. When 30 per cent or more of executive-level positions were filled by women, those companies had a 48 per cent likelihood of outperforming their least-diverse competitors.

According to another report by JLL, new construction industry jobs are expected to balloon by almost two million in 2022. As a result, companies are looking to recruit more women than ever before to bring their skill sets into the field.

Godfrey noted that 2019 was a “very transformational” year and that surveys conducted by PwC showed that 33 per cent of the world’s largest construction businesses employed at least one woman at the senior vice president or C-suite level. “So, it is not all doom and gloom,” he said.

Gulneet Chadha, global HR leader at GC Consulting, highlighted the importance of culture and investing in happiness for the workforce. She noted that over 40 per cent of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer in 2021-2022. The main reason for this shift, she explained, is that workers are looking for a better work culture.

“Culture is nothing but understanding how your workers feel,” she said. “If they don’t feel okay, then understand how can you help them feel better. What you need to do today is to invest in happiness. Happiness is when you support your employees to sustain their individual health and productivity.”

This is why everyone today is talking about mental health, she added. “Any contribution to mental health has a significant and positive impact on the bottom line. According to the WHO, depression is a common mental disorder affecting more than 264 million people worldwide at any given time. Quite often, you may not even know the depression you are in. A stressful work environment can trigger as many as six critical mental health disorders.

She advised leaders to “stop being professional” and to “start being personal.”

“Get personal with each and every employee and understand their problems and then support them,” she said. “This is when you touch on their feelings, and you develop a connection that leaves a very deep impact on their mind.”

Nurul Sabri, senior consultant at HKA, also noted that it is no secret that women are facing a massive inequality challenge in the construction industry. “It is critical to acknowledge that this issue exists for us to create effective change.”

She encouraged leaders to learn about biases in the industry before combatting them. Ongoing training programmes are a good way to eliminate the biases, as is creating public awareness about them, she said.


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