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‘More women needed in top construction roles’

09/07/2015

More needs to be done to get women to fill top positions in the building industry, it is being claimed.

Holly Porter, who set up the Chicks with Bricks group a decade ago to help promote female role models in the sector, told a debate hosted by Building magazine that the industry needs to do more to help.

Ms Porter, who is also the founding director of Surface to Air Architects, said when she had been looking at where she wanted to be in 20 years’ time she had been unable to find any female role models.

She said while Chicks with Bricks had been set up to address the problem, the construction industry could do its bit by encouraging women to enter and succeed in the sector’s top roles.

At the moment women account for just one in eight (12%) of all those employed in the industry, the debate heard.

Hilary Satchwell, meanwhile, a director at Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design, told the debate that women are being held back by cultural problems such as being belittled. If that continues, she added, the industry is not going to be able to move forward.

But she said the situation has been reversed at Tibbalds, which is led by an all-female board.

James Wates chairs both the Wates Group contracting business and the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).

He admitted both organisations could do more, despite a fifth of the Wates Group’s employees being women and the CITB board having a female majority.

Mr Wates said female recruitment would be driven forward by the new Build UK contracting trade association, which he will also co-chair. It is set to be launched in September following a merger of the National Specialist Contractors Council and the UK Contractors Group.

Peter Flint, head of the buildings and places division at Aecom, pointed out that a US study had found that among Fortune 1000 firms, the share returns delivered by those led by women were three times better than male-led ones.

He said promoting more female leaders makes sound business sense, adding that firms need to help break down the barriers which are holding women back and take the issue seriously.

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