If equality is so good for business when do I start seeing a return

Three essential steps towards making equality work for your business.

This was a blog post we wrote for our partners Carillion for their sustainability week. You can see the original post here.


Research shows that an equal organisation is a good all-rounder helping staff feel happier, more motivated and more likely to stay with your business. The question we need to ask is have we been doing equality well? The answer might not be what we hoped, whilst there is certainly more work being undertaken now than ever before, how does that reconcile with the 2% drop in women in the sector (down to 11%) or the fact that only 16% of Architects feel comfortable with people knowing that they are gay in a site environment. When it comes to equality, there is a bit of untangling to do before we can start to get to the core of the issue, but don’t worry it is worth the work.  But to get there, we need to appreciate a few things

1) Equality is not always done well, and when it’s not it costs. We like to get people to think about this regarding health and safety. We can all agree (I hope) that having a safe site is a good thing, but we can also agree that some of the things we do in the name of health and safety are not helpful – I use the example of when I was working as a site manager, company policy imposed eye goggles on all site workers. Unfortunately, the goggles provided were cheap so scratched easily and misted up. Essentially we visually impaired everyone in the name of health and safety. Now this isn’t to say that we should avoid H&S or equality for fear of getting it wrong. No – we should respect it enough to know that sometimes we will get it right, sometimes we won’t so we need to measure and learn.

2) Just because if feels like a good thing to do, does not mean it will have a good outcome. It’s great that people want to be active in the field of equality, but sometimes we need to take a step back. Unfortunately, a lot of the initiatives I see have great intent, but they hadn’t fully thought through the outcomes. For examples clients asking for numbers of women on site can impact upon perceived capability and lead to role without responsibility. That’s not to say we should down tools, but rather you should seek out professionals who understand equality, business and industry to help you get there quicker. Until we respect that equality is impacted on by complex psychological, sociological and organisational factors we are unlikely to progress.  In short you can represent yourself in a court of law but there is a reason why people hire a lawyer – equality is no different.

3) Equality needs to be done in line with your business culture. Get this wrong, and you might as well throw your money away.  If you have a culture that feels the company is not being fair you have to address this before implementing significant portions of work around equality. People are more likely to look after themselves if they don’t trust the business will take care of them, implementing equality work in this environment can lead to backlash and increased hostility. This usually drives away the very people you are looking to keep.

The important thing is that by stepping back, understanding your organisational culture, industry constraints and the principles of fairness, inclusion and equality you can make much larger steps forward.

Get in touch to find out more.

Apprentice completions are on the decline; skills shortages, working conditions and Section106

11 - ApprenticeshipsPublished 26.01.2015

This week Construction News reported that apprentice completions were on the decline with only 50% of those undertaking an apprenticeship actually completing them in 2013/2014. What’s more this has dropped from 66% in 2012/2013. With 120k apprentices expected to be required over the next five years (so that’s 24k a year) the current 8,030 coming in a year is not going to meet that demand. Even if the 20% growth continues year on year, in year five there will still be a 33% short fall of required apprentices. How that translates into qualified and competent persons and who is going to train those apprentices is another matter for another day.

So, as always, we want to draw your attention away from the mad rush to get people into the industry and ask you to focus your attention on how to get them to stay. We ran the figures a number of ways and the only realistic way of achieving the targets required are by achieving a balance between retention and recruitment. This might sound obvious, but I would warn you that without that balance we actually risk making the situation worse by creating negative ambassadors for the sector.

So what might get in the way of apprentices staying in the industry?

1. Expectations:

  • I’m a big fan of people going into schools and talking about the vast and brilliant careers available in the UK construction industry. What I’m a little more cautious of is the attempt that’s sometimes made to sell the industry without a blemish. The challenge this creates is of people entering a sector that looks very different to the dream they were promised, and there are enough cases in history that tell us just how well this approach pans out.

Solution – Give a “warts and all” view of the sector; the highs are high enough to counter the lows and at least people will be making informed decisions, and quite often that’s an appealing option.

2. Workplace Environment:

  • I love the industry; it’s a great place to work, but it does ask a lot. In fact it asks an awful lot including long hours, working away from home and possibly dangerous conditions. We need to start asking now if we can improve the experience people have of the sector. Do we really need people to start work at 7 after driving for an hour only to finish at 6 and then drive for another hour? Do we have enough support for managers on managing people as opposed to tasks? Do we do enough to bring our organisations together, or do we divide it with competitive targets?

Solution – Tools like the our engage program can help you unpick these challenges at the same pace as the rest of the sector keeping you ahead of the curve but in line with your clients’ thinking.

3. Client demands

  • I strongly believe that clients are working hard to help raise the numbers of apprentices in the construction sector. However, I’m not sure that the way we have been working towards this over the past few years has been the best solution for long term change and growth. Requiring contractors (not always from the area) who are working on local projects to employ local apprentices when they will only be on the contract and in the area for a few months can misunderstand how construction works when the apprentice needs the security of two years for training.

Solution – We need a rethink; clients and contractors, alongside sub-contractors and communities, need to work together for realistic and long-term solutions within procurement requirements. The Shared Apprenticeships programmes are a great start.

4. Image

  • Our image as a sector is important if we want to be seen as a ‘career of choice’ and we need to bear in mind that the 50 % of apprentices we currently lose from the sector may go out and spread a less than positive message to a wider reach about their experiences presenting an ever increasing challenge to us improving our image. Improving our retention rate will reduction the dissatisfaction leakage and the subsequent damage-limitation we have to undertake that keeps preventing us from moving forwards.

Solution – Focusing on industry retention has the potential to be the lynch-pin that can allow us to gain ground in improving our image by supporting companies to have fair employment and working practices in place and demonstrate that they offer extras, benefits and additional value. The new YouGov survey covered in Construction Manager and The Construction Index today has highlighted that these are increasingly more important to people in the industry than just the salaries now that salaries themselves have improved so significantly. Be Fair is a way to ensure our industry is an ‘industry of choice’, our employers are ‘employers of choice’ and we offer our people and our recruits ‘careers of choice’.

Construction Marketing Awards 2014

CITB’s new majority women board – our view


Published: 14.01.2015

This week CITB announced the line-up of its new board and I think it’s fair to say that not many people were expecting 5 of the 8 members to be women, but they are. The biggest points are that it is a surprise, it is unexpected and it is cause for comment…should it really be?

As ever we thought we would offer our perspective on the appointments, what they might mean and the questions they might raise. Did BIS (they made the board selections) get it right? Is this ‘PC’ pandering? What does this mean for the sector?

So let’s grab the proverbial bull by the horns cos I know a few people are thinking it…they told me so.

Is this all just ‘PC’ gone mad; shouldn’t it be the best person for the job?

In that sentence lies the problem itself – the presumption that the women appointed will not be the best person for the job. Even when we have a full board of men we never question their ability based on gender, so why do we do this with women? Is it because they are under-represented in industry? If so, surely those that make it to the top, despite their difference, will be extraordinarily capable. Personally I feel these questions act as a barometer for how far we have progressed; if we are undermining the ability of women simply by their presence in a way that we would not do with men, we have a far way to go.

kath fontana ‏@kathf48  Jan 13Kath Fontana

@CNplus: Women outnumber men on new CITB board http://bit.ly/1y8j55g ” great – looking fw to the day when suchlike will not be ‘news’


All the women are from HR – where are the construction women?

To be clear, Dr. Diana Garnham who is CEO, Science Council does not work in HR; rather her background is politics and war studies. That being said I understand the point that none of the women have worked in traditional technical construction jobs, or at least not so I could find on LinkedIn (I’m more than happy to be proven wrong here).

There are a couple of points here – firstly, that the question was not asked of the men – did they have previous roles in construction and if so how construction technical would that role have to be before it was accepted? If you did ask this and looked at the histories of the group members, rather than made an assumption – well done you. If though you presumed MD meant from a technical trade background, I don’t mind saying that is not always the case.

The second point is around what the industry needs; as a woman who worked in construction I do feel that it provides an insight that I would like to be represented on this panel. There is a lot of presumption made about the challenges faced by different groups in construction that varies from the actual experiences of those groups – without that representation, there is a risk that stories won’t be told and lessons won’t be learnt. In saying that, the opportunities for women in technical roles are challenging – this is a fact demonstrated by the lack of women nominated for the 2014 CIOB CMYA awards amongst other things.

I think the focus must be on what the board is trying to achieve, and at the moment where we are recognising that the task-based focus of the industry has led us away from understanding the needs of the people in the sector, it might just be that the HR perspective is needed. Without knowing more about the reasoning behind these decisions it’s hard to answer this point more exactly.

Rob Charlton ‏@spacegroupRob  4h4 hours agoIslington, LondonRob Charlton

“Could CITB not find some women in construction to join the board. The HR thing is still a bit stereotypical.”


Why is only gender represented; what about disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.?

Firstly, you don’t know that it isn’t. If you only consider the diversity you can see you’re missing the point somewhat. I’ll agree the board is a touch pale, but that doesn’t in itself mean that ethnic diversity isn’t represented, just that you can’t see it. The same goes for disability, sexual orientation, etc. Also, in a group of 8 it’s hard to represent all things so some leeway must be given.

The reason gender is so important is that a good gender balance has been proven to have noticeable effects on attendance, punctuality, papers read in advance of meetings and reduction of ‘group think’. There is also research that indicates a greater return on investment from mixed gender boards.

What do you think?

Overall, I think this is good news; in the future of course I would like to see women from construction careers on the board, but I also want to see both men and women from non-construction careers represented too – having a viewpoint from outside of the industry pushes us further. If our work only looked at what construction has done historically we would not be able to make the leaps forward that we have. Using research and best practice from outside of the sector and tailoring it to the needs of this industry is an approach that we have found to work well.

I am hopeful that this board will help the industry refocus and better appreciate the needs of the people working within it, and if it takes half the board being from a background in HR to achieve that, then it’s ok by me.

Construction Marketing Awards 2014 Winner

Wedding rings – “To wear or not to wear?”

New Picture
Published: 22.12.2014
“I have spoken to people who have said they’d remove engagement or wedding rings before going into a job interview.
Has it become so bad that we perceive ourselves as having to almost lie in order not to be judged as falling into a certain stereotype? I.e. She is engaged and will therefore be married and have kids within a year so she’s not worth employing?”
In an ideal world the answer would be to wear your rings; the law is in place to protect you and make sure that you will not be discriminated against so you should have nothing to worry about.
The problem is we don’t live in an ideal world.  And whilst if you did face discrimination in a job interview because your prospective employers suspected you were newly married and about to start a family you could take legal action, but first of all, you would have to know that was the reason for their decision.
Secondly, you would need to be able to prove it. Neither of which are particularly easy to do.
Even if you could prove it, the expense of a court case, in terms of finance, time and mental well-being  is high and the pay-outs are low – if you take away the few big pay-outs that are awarded, you find an average of £3/4k.
So what then should you do?
If you need a job, don’t care what job is and just have to pay the mortgage now…then it might be best to leave the ring at home. You see, it’s not just that some people do not employ “women of child bearing age” (a phrase we have heard more often that we would like to admit) or those who are recently married.  Although this direct discrimination is common, it is not the only thing you need to worry about; there is also the problem of inherent bias – subconsciously a lot of people think mums will take more time off, not be fully committed and generally fall short of the work a man can do. It doesn’t matter that research has found the opposite to be true and it doesn’t matter that you don’t want children; you look like you might have them and, to the under-educated, that makes you a risk not an asset.
If, on the other hand, you have a bit more choice and don’t need to take the first job that comes towards you; wear the ring . You see if you take a job with an employer who does not understand the business argument for equality and supporting working parents, it is likely that you will eventually find out about it (even if you never have children). If you do, this may be made apparent by being given lesser roles and responsibilities and possibly being made to feel unwanted if, and when, you do conceive. If you have the luxury of being able to take the risk let the employer self-select. This will enable you to find yourself an employer who “gets it”, one who knows the importance of supporting and retaining key talent – and don’t just do this because you’ll get extra maternity pay.  It goes further than that – a supportive working environment is more likely to retain key people which has a positive effect on profit; meaning that this is the company more likely to be around in ten or twenty years’ time.
The changes in law mean that men can now take paternity leave so the risk is there – male or female – and with an increasing number of men becoming the main or sole carer, the point should be that the questions and assumptions are made of all or none; failing to do this is denying someone an opportunity because of their gender, not because of their family status. A company deciding to discriminate is doing so despite the fact that it is illegal; whatever your moral position, they are in the wrong.
Construction Marketing Awards - Winner

The gift of praise; ours to you, and why you should also pass some on


Published: 18.12.2014

I don’t need to tell you that running a business is not an easy job, let alone making the somewhat ambitious decision to do this alongside undertaking a PhD. The past few years have seen extraordinary highs, including launching the CITB Be Fair framework, our online training and receiving a CMA award. There have also been the lows that any SME encounters in a recession and subsequent growing economy.

That’s why I felt it was important to say a massive thank you to both my wonderful staff in the office and those of you that have supported Constructing Equality Limited and me throughout the years. So here goes…

To our supporters – thank you. Through the years you have been an amazing source of hope and inspiration, every email thanking us for the newsletter, adding comment to the blog, sharing us on twitter or championing us generally has been so very gratefully received. Our aim to create a positive environment for those that work in the sector is not an easy one, and we certainly couldn’t have got this far without your help and support. We hope that the resources we put out and the publicity we drum up go some way to showing our gratitude; if not, please know that as a business we are all aware that industry change will happen by all of us working together and supporting one another. I hope we can continue to do that for years to come.

To my team – my lovely, lovely team. I have never worked with such a kind, supportive, skilled, and sarcastic bunch. You have all ridden the rollercoaster that is small business amazingly well and feedback from our clients is further proof of your professionalism and commitment to the values of fairness, inclusion and respect. I know I would not have got this far without you either, and look forward to travelling much further together.

I know some will deem this email a little cheesy; I suspect they might be right. More than that though, I know how important it is to ensure those that work with you know that they are appreciated especially if, like me, you are often too busy to give them the credit they deserve.

Therefore, our Christmas top tip is make an effort to thank your colleagues, both above and below you, for something they have done this year; make it specific so it’s meaningful and make it honest so it’s appreciated. We can all sometimes worry so much about the praise that we don’t receive and forget to pay our own forward.

Have a wonderful holiday and a happy new year.


PS Here’s a little gift to you all – from us to you!

Construction Marketing Awards - Winner

How to tick a box and build a business

Published: 11.12.2015

Finally the market is starting to grow again and as a sector we are aware that we need short term solutions to get onto procurement lists or meet the needs of our existing contracts. This must be done alongside longer term strategies for fairness, inclusion and respect in the workplace.

With equalities legislation meaning equality training is often a public sector requirement, we have been working hard to create a training package that can fulfil your procurement needs as well as lay down a foundation for employee engagement with future inclusion initiatives undertaken by your organisation.

The key to this is understanding your audience. Since our courses were written by people who have worked in the sector we have first-hand knowledge of the industry’s understanding and in some cases concern about areas around equalities. Combine that with our vast knowledge in areas of equality and education and we have a course that is not only able to answer those concerns, but one that can do it in a way that appeals to
 all of the learning styles in the room.

The Christmas package we are currently offering is intended to not only tick the procurement box but to help your employees see how work around diversity and inclusion is important to them. From just £25 per head and with a consistent record of work what shows engaged and informed learners what better present could we give your business?

Workshop training Stats


Construction Marketing Awards - Winner

Best Construction Blog 2014 – it’s official

Winner logo
Best Construction Blog

Published: 4.12.2014


At this week’s Construction Marketing Awards for 2014, Constructing Equality Ltd. scooped the award for Best Construction Blog.

 The judges commented: “This blog is an easily accessible guide to the ins and outs of diversity and equality in the construction industry. It is a fantastic idea that provides an excellent service.”

As regular readers will know, our weekly blog discusses issues, challenges and good practice surrounding fair working practices, equality and diversity in the UK construction industry, and has developed a readership of over 1000 people per month (enhanced by the over 6000 subscribers to our newsletter).

The Construction Marketing Awards are an annual event recognising marketing excellence across the built environment. The category of Best Construction Blog was new this year, with nominations being made by those working within the industry followed by a public vote to select the shortlist.

It feels a bit strange to be blogging about our blog, but we thought you might be interested to ‘peep behind the curtain’ and see some of the details and statistics about our (now award winning) weekly blog.

Our main audience is from the United Kingdom but there is growing interest from the United States, Canada and Australia.

Depending on the topics that we cover we have on average 1000 readers per month, giving on average 1280 page impressions over that time.

We have found that since moving the blog to our website we have had an increased number of connections gaining contact with us, which has led to both sales and developing strategic relationships with individuals and organisations relevant to our future plans.

We have also seen an increase in engagement with our audience through our blog. This is an indication that more people are becoming aware of fairness, inclusion and respect in the construction industry and are wanting to find out further information, such as how this impacts upon them as an individual.

Our blog is shared across our social media profiles to reach both existing and new readers. We have over 200 followers on Facebook, and over 970 followers on Twitter. The number of readers increased by more than double since we reviewed and adapted our Social Media Strategy, a percentage increase of 167% over the past year

Depending on the topic of the blog, we receive 15-60 clicks on the link from social media each week. We receive 1 or 2 ‘shares’ on Facebook, and more than double this in retweets on Twitter. We add links to our blog to 17 different groups on LinkedIn, which is by far the most popular forum for reader engagement. We usually see 4 or 5 discussions started per blog, and many of these are still ongoing months later.

Naturally we’re all really chuffed to have won this award, so here are some comments from the office:

“Winning this award is brilliant – we blog about very challenging issues sometimes so it’s great to know the industry values our contribution to making construction a fair place to work.” – Caroline Gee, Head of Operations and Be Fair Service Manager

“Winning this award has been a great achievement for us, and it is heart-warming to know that people enjoy our weekly blogs and see them as being good enough to win such a prestigious award” – Patrick Hughes, Finance.

“The responses we get to our blog posts never cease to amaze me, and for our readers to not only nominate us for this award, but also vote us through to the final round shows just how much they appreciate our insight into the issues covered.” – Matt Crouch, Marketing, Training and Product Development.

“We are absolutely delighted at winning this award, especially since the nominations come from those working in the industry. To have our readers enter us for an award was not only very touching, but also let us know that our posts are valued by those working within construction – that means so much to us. To then be selected by the judges as the Best Construction Blog winner came as a shock considering that we were up against some stiff competition. I think this shows that subjects around fair working practices and equality are beginning to reach a higher level of significance and urgency in the industry, and are being seen as solutions to issues that we face such as the skills shortages and how companies can be seen to be ‘employers of choice’”. – Chrissi McCarthy, MD

Construction Marketing Awards - Winner

Constructing Equality Ltd as your CITB licensed Be Fair assessment provider

Published: 26.11.2015


Constructing Equality Ltd as your CITB licensed Be Fair assessment providerWebsite Be Fair Framework Provider(CITB)1 So why should contractors be doing Be Fair?

  • To be seen as ‘employers of choice’ to their staff and new recruits in the face of skills shortages
  • To win more work – by breaking into new markets and complying with public sector PQQs/ITTs
  • To lead the industry
  • To take advantage of the £1000 incentive CITB are currently offering to the first 100 companies to achieve accreditation since the launch

Accrediting businesses will develop fairness, inclusion and respect practices appropriate for them through modules written as action plans showing what companies need to do, the evidence to be collected and the template documents that can be used if needed. The template documents supplied as part of Be Fair include policies, contract clauses, tool box talks and more; they come free with the framework and can be worth up to £10,000.

How do companies achieve accreditation?  Untitled1

Companies undertaking Be Fair with Constructing Equality Ltd said: “Thank you so much for ALL your attentiveness and quality of support…I would not hesitate to recommend this to other construction companies.” K & M McLoughlin. “Constructing Equality have been great throughout the entire process, providing support and direction when we needed it.” – Admiral Scaffolding Group. “I started the process with you and hopefully you will be there for us when we reach our Gold level pass -Thanks for all your help during the process.” – Cull Dry Lining and Plastering Ltd.

Why Constructing Equality Ltd?

As a CITB licensed assessment provider, Constructing Equality Ltd are: –

  • The first provider licensed
  • The only provider that is licensed to assess all levels of Be Fair

And: –

CITB’s incentive of £1000 for the first 100 companies accredited is still available for new registrations, but places are allocated first-come, first-served at the sign-up point. Constructing Equality Ltd can be contacted on 0151 706 8132 or by emailing Patrick – patrick@constructingequality.co.uk –contact us for help with Be Fair diagnostic questionnaires, for your assessment needs and for pricing.

Why modern slavery is a threat to your construction business, and how you can stamp it out

The total number of people enslaved by region

Date Published: 20.11.2014

There have been a number of news articles lately on modern day slavery and the construction sector does not escape this focus. In 2013, 53 potential UK victims were identified in the construction industry and this is very likely to be the tip of the iceberg.

Besides ethical and moral considerations there is a very real business case for investigating modern day slavery in the supply chain – the Modern Day Slavery Bill is currently going through parliament and will require big businesses to publically state each year what action they have taken to protect against slavery. This is requiring pro-active responses.

So how then can you address this challenge?

Firstly, we must understand that for most people the idea of slavery (or ‘gang-mastering’ as we commonly recognise it on construction sites) is abhorrent; so much so that we would often fail to recognise it even if the symptoms were plainly obvious.

For example, in a conversation with a site manager when we outlined this issue and how it was used in industry his response was, “I used to regularly use a ‘slab gang’ who could provide labour and materials for less than I could get the concrete with my own main contractor discount – I really should have looked into that”.

You see, it’s not that the industry doesn’t care that gang-mastering exists, it’s that the idea is too horrible to imagine it happening on our sites so we assume it is not.

Luckily we can help, if you want to know more about how you can recognise the signs of gang mastering get in touch, after all its forward thinking businesses that will be catching the eye of public sector procurement advisers.


CMA, 2014 Finalist

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