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How can the construction and property industry balance for better?

By Ferdia White, Senior Manager of Hays Construction & Property team

Construction and property is often used as an example of a traditionally male dominated industry, a position difficult to argue against when you consider that only 1 in 10 employees are female, according to research from the CIF. The ongoing perception that construction and property is not as accessible to women has impacted efforts to improve diversity in the sector and improve access to new talent pools. The reality is that as a sector, construction and property has much to offer to people of any gender, with healthy starting salaries and huge potential for career development. Severe skills shortages in some areas mean that making a career in construction and property appealing to as wide a pool of candidates as possible is of critical importance, which is something that must begin by fundamentally altering perceptions of the industry.

Doubts around equal opportunities must be tackled

According to our research for the Hays Ireland Diversity & Inclusion report 2018, fewer than half (46%) of professionals working in Ireland believe they have the same career opportunities open to them as their colleagues, regardless of gender, and even fewer (43%) believe they are being paid equally. Of those who felt their career opportunities had been inhibited, 72% of women felt that this was due to their gender, in comparison to only 21% of men, who were more likely to feel their age (47%) or ethnicity (40%) had a part to play. These statistics rather alarmingly perpetuate the stigma that surrounds the industry – the very real repercussions of gender bias are still being felt by a significant proportion of professionals.

The diversity agenda needs to be pushed from the top

Filling quotas is not a solution to the challenge of improving diversity and inclusion - to obtain the maximum creative potential from a workforce, construction and property leaders must drive change by example. Challenging traditional ways of working, modelling inclusive behaviour and delivering on the promises made will make a real difference to talent attraction, retention and company performance. The fact that less than half (45%) of construction and property professionals in Ireland trust their leaders to deliver change on the diversity and inclusion agenda suggests that there is much more to be done by employers if equality is to be felt at all levels.

Organisations can always achieve a better gender balance

By being agents for change, leaders can mitigate their own unconscious bias and recognise the impact this is having on their team. Self-awareness is vital to making change happen, while clearly communicating the diversity agenda within their organisation and allowing employees to give honest feedback is integral to retaining confidence and trust.

Ensuring opportunities are equal for employees, regardless of gender, by clearly defining their progression pathways and objectives is key to making a workforce aware that their professional development is tied purely to achievement and ability. Similarly, the use of mentoring initiatives gives traditionally under-represented groups greater access to leadership development opportunities.

Additionally, offering flexible working opportunities will allow all construction and property employees to better manage the demands of work and personal life while still fulfilling their professional responsibilities.

Although we are starting to see improvements in gender diversity, we all have a part to play to continue this journey to balance for better. View our diversity page for more insights from Hays experts, and to get the latest Hays Ireland Diversity & Inclusion report.

About this author

Ferdia joined Hays in 2011. With over 6 years' experience, he currently manages the Construction & Property team in Dublin. Ferdia recruits within the Building Services sector in Leinster.

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