For International Women’s Day, the Construction Leadership Forum sat down with Morag Angus, newly appointed co-chair of its Transformation Board and Chief Surveyor for the Scottish Government, to talk about the state of play for women as well as diversity, equity and inclusion within the sector.
When it comes to gender equality, there’s no avoiding the fact that the construction sector is behind where it should be. Only15% of the construction industry in Scotland is female, the gender pay gap sits at around 23% while its 10.1% in Scotland as a whole, and in terms of women entering the sector, things aren’t looking promising either - in 2022 only 2.7% of modern apprentices were female.
In our conversation with Morag Angus, co-chair of the CLF’s Transformation Board and Chief Surveyor for the Scottish Government, she rightly points out that these kinds of statistics only show you half the picture: “There are other aspects to this that are harder to quantify, but equally important. Women are also lacking equity when it comes to influence. Research and personal experience show that women are not holding as many decision-making roles as men. Without changing this, without meaningful representation, we will struggle to see higher numbers of women entering the sector.”
But this lack of representation and influence effects more than women alone. 1.6% of workers in the construction sector are from a minority ethnic background compared with 4.3% of minority ethnic workers in Scotland as a whole. And the number of workers who have declared a disability also remains low.
In response to these statistics, Morag says: “Diversity is important for so many reasons. The sector should be representative of the people it serves. By being more inclusive, we can welcome in diversity of thought and hopefully, a change in culture too. But to make this happen, we need to create the mechanisms that give these groups a voice, it won’t happen by accident.”
In order for this to change, one thing that needs to happen is a change in public perception of the construction industry. “Although jobs in the sector are no longer limited to manual and technological advancements have ushered in an abundance of jobs that are not reliant on physical capabilities, it is also time to move on from the idea that women are not suited to manual labour.”
Education is key to making sure we can bring about this shift in perception. Morag highlights Built Environment – Smarter Transformation’s (BE-ST) Low Carbon Learning Next Gen programme designed to inspire young people interested in the built environment through a series of free workshops, as an example.
It’s also about making sure you support people from underrepresented groups and give them the chance to have a platform. Without visible role models, Morag believes the pace of change will remain slow.
Although Morag acknowledges that in terms of respect and recognition towards women there’s been a shift in the right direction over the last decade, she remarks: “I am still well used to being the only senior woman in the room. And I’m conscious that there is still a dearth of people from other underrepresented groups at senior level too.”
Reflecting on recent industry visits and events, Morag says: “It’s brilliant to see more and more spaces created for women and people from underrepresented groups to voice their opinions and contribute to brilliant construction projects like the University of Strathclyde’s Learning and Teaching building, which was driven forward by senior female leaders and won a GO Award for its net-zero construction procurement credentials last year. But we can’t just get women in the room and think it stops there. We all need to rally for change and be proactive. This is only the tip of the iceberg.”
One mechanism that Morag highlights could support meaningful change across the sector if implemented at a large enough scale is the Construction Leadership Forum’s National Construction Equity and Inclusion Plan. Funded by Scottish Government, the plan seeks to widen access to careers in the sector by mainstreaming equity and inclusion.
Since the plan launched, a 12-month programme promoting best practice in equity and inclusion in the sector has been kick-started. The sector can now access free resources, toolkits and case studies on a dedicated area of the BE-ST website. The CLF data dashboard is also playing an important role by providing real-time so that we can continuously benchmark where we are with gender equality.
As we wind up our conversation with Morag, she starts to think about what she’d like to see in the future. She adds: “I want more to be done to educate the people who might be thinking of a career in the built environment and the recruiters who are tapping into talent pools so that we can start to see a different cohort of leaders coming into the sector. When this happens, we will start to see different ways of thinking in our sector – something which can only benefit us. Particularly, at a time when we’re facing several critical challenges.
“We just can’t keep going the way we have been for so long. As time goes on, I don’t know how we are still justifying it. But there is hope and we’re starting to see some major employers offering practical support for advancing women returning to work and growing their experience and we can build on that. Things will change for the better if we try.”
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New chair and membership for Construction Leadership Forum
CLF International – Five key takeaways
CLF’s commitment to achieving equity & inclusion in construction: A spotlight with Morag Angus
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