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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Re-Thinking Online Equality Training – 5 Reasons why it could be for you and your company

Published: 7.11.2015

 

Now, I know what you might be thinking – Online Training has not always lived up to the dream it promised; so often being dry, over cautious and even ill-informed. We are hoping to change that by providing training that will not only engage the audience but help them see the value of learning in this style. With six large main contractor organisations having tested our training earlier this year, below are 5 reasons why you should re-think Online Training as a solution to your Equality Training needs:-

  1. We know our stuff, both practically and academically. By that we mean we really do know what we are talking about and not just on equality either. Our team houses experts in equality and construction, as well as teaching and online learning. In fact, the wealth of knowledge that went into the Training is as follows:-
  • 15+ years practical Construction Industry experience
  • 15+ years Teaching experience
  • 7+ years Equality and Diversity Practitioner experience
  • Postgraduate qualifications in Construction Management, Equality and Teaching
  • In-house expertise in Online Training

“The course is construction specific, which makes it relevant” Shepherd Construction

  1. We think Training should be enjoyable. We spend a lot of time thinking about how we can teach people things in a way that keeps them engaged and helps them relate to the subject. Our Training hosts a mix of videos, tasks, audio and visual stimuli to cater for a range of learning styles and needs. We also test using a range of methods so that you can see how your staff members are progressing.

“The interactive aspects are good” BAM Construct UK Ltd

  1. We know what’s important. Whilst the law is important to know, we think that people are more likely to buy into an ‘equality’ agenda if they can understand why it’s important to them. Hence, our courses are not only written by people who have worked in the construction industry, but they also look at the benefits for the individual, the business and the Construction Sector as a whole. This approach helps people understand why this is important for them and how they can progress this work within their roles.

“Raised important issues” Seddon Construction

  1. We know that your time is valuable. Our training modules are broken down into blocks lasting 15mins. There are tests to be completed at the end which complement the learning experience. There are currently two courses available, one which lasts for a total of one hour, and one that goes further, taking three hours to complete. This way you can pick the course that suits your company’s needs.

“Excellent pace” Robertson Construction

  1. We consider your budget. The training is designed so that you / your company can claim grants through the CITB Grant Scheme, if you are eligible. We also provide a discount for those companies who enrol their staff on our courses at the same time as registering with us for the CITB Be Fair Framework.

“Keeps audience participation high” The Miller Group (Miller Construction)

To find out more about our courses, or to enrol your staff as learners, contact us in any of the following ways:

Online equality training can help you meet both organisational and procurement requirements.

How to improve the industry’s track record on equality – 5 very important pointers

Chrissi3-300x202

Published: 30.10.2014

There’s a bit of a trend happening as we come out of the recession and start to refocus on skills. Part of it is that we are looking to women and gender to overcome the skills shortage, the other part is that we are looking for the reason why women and minority groups are not represented. This in itself is not a bad thing; in fact it’s a good thing.

The challenge comes when people start looking outside of both their organisations and themselves. There are a lot of organisations and teams within them doing great work and focusing on their impact, but there are just as many, if not more, who feel the challenge lies solely with others, and that’s where the challenge for the industry lies.

You see there is no one answer to the challenge of making the industry more representative; it is a massively complex area involving a wide range of influencers, variables and outcomes. Current perspectives include: –

  1. Thinking there is one simple answer to solving the industry’s challenges.

There isn’t; it’s just not that simple. There is a lot of talk regarding getting more people into the sector as if that will make all the difference, but there is evidence against that. Pretty much any organisation in the industry can show you a wide gap between entry level diversity and that in senior management. If people are not being promoted it’s unlikely they will stay – we need to tackle the full spectrum of issues. It’s a massively complex area and what will work within a small sub-contractor will not have the same effect within an institute. CITB’s Be Fair framework understands this and guides business towards what’s right for their staff and their bottom lines.

  1. Presuming that people in business are on side with equality.

Some are, some aren’t and some don’t care. This is important; we need to understand what attitudes exist within our companies regarding equality in order to fully overcome them. Giving training on sub-conscious bias to people with aggressively negative attitudes to equality can worsen a situation, which is bad for business and for individuals. This is the area of focus for our PhD and a key part in ensuring equality works within the business.

  1. Looking outwards, not inwards.

It’s very easy to say what everyone else is doing wrong but so much harder to see where you might be able to improve. We meet many people and individuals who say the problem is with (external issue) without a second glance at their own impact. This is very concerning because if we all take this stance nothing will be done. We must ensure that those leading on industry change show how they have considered their own responsibility and put measures in place accordingly. Otherwise the only clear leadership measure is that it’s OK to just point the finger.

  1. Do what I say not what I do.

You can have as many company policies as you want, but if the actual message delivered by the actions of you and your business does not back them up you’ve probably just made the situation worse. Research shows us that the presence of a diversity strategy that is not well considered, and appropriately actioned, can have damaging effects on business.

  1. Focusing on what has gone before.

There is a lot of research on equality, both inside the sector and outside of it. There have also been a lot of initiatives over the years trying to tackle this issue. Yet at many of the gatherings I go to people often talk about this challenge as if nothing has ever happened before, suggesting old ideas as new and ignoring the lessons learned the last time we took a trip down that road. This is a sure fire way to set us back as a sector. We must learn from the successes and mistakes of the past if we are to actually move this agenda forward. Otherwise we will simply create a series of politically popular talking shops.

So what to do? Like we said, this is a massively complex array of issues that don’t become any easier when applied to the construction industry – our project-based working, long hours and fragmented nature creates a unique environment that must be understood if change is to be enacted.

The thing is though, we already have the solution – the CITB Be Fair framework considers all of these aspects and more; it is staged change for the industry at a pace it can handle and treats different organisations appropriately allowing for an action plan that suits them and improves the business.

It also has a strategy behind it that feeds information back into industry and works for the improvement of the sector.

To make change we must all take responsibility for our own organisations, actions and learning. Because if we don’t we might very well be part of the problem not the solution.

Awards:

CMA, 2014 Finalist

 

An open letter to my institute – 5 reasons why no women finalists in the CIOB CMYA Awards is very bad for the industry

Chrissi Hard HatWhen I worked in construction I had an ambition – well I had a lot of ambitions and still do – but there was one with a particular focus. I wanted to win CIOB’s CMYA (Construction Manager of the Year Awards) ; for me they were the only awards that showcased the best of the talent in the industry. I felt if I ever won an award it would show that I had achieved something that was very important to me – that I was the best I could be at my job.

The awards played another part in my career – when I decided to leave site management as a profession to focus on how to change the sector to make it better for the people within it, I did one last thing before I closed the door just to check I wasn’t making a terrible mistake – one last thing before I left behind a career that had been an important part of my identity for about 15 years.

I looked up.

I looked at CEOs, industry presidents and, of course probably most importantly, the CMYA finalists. I looked up to see if there were any women there – to see if women could make it if we only tried hard enough.

What I saw confirmed my worst fears – women were not present at the top of the industry.

This was back in 2007, and things have changed – my ambition is now to gain a PhD, help the industry improve and grow a successful business. RICS, RIBA, CIOB, ICE and IStructE have all had their first female presidents, Laing O’Rourke and Mitie both have female CEOs and CITB appointed its first female board member.

Some things have changed for the worse – the number of women in the industry has fallen from 13% down to 11% and the CMYA 2014 had no female nominations out of 95 finalists – and nowhere on the website does it even raise the issue.

So why does this matter?

  1. Women in construction aren’t daft. In fact, on average women in the sector are bright and ambitious. That’s usually because we haven’t ‘fallen’ into the industry, rather we have worked hard to work to find our place here (if you fell in, had an easy time and are a woman; good for you and long may it continue). But the problem is that our industry asks a lot of site managers – a hell of a lot more than most industries – averages of 60-hour weeks, dangerous environments and not as much respect as we deserve. If we don’t give the bright, ambitious people real opportunities for promotion and progression they might start to think it’s not worth the hassle, no matter how much they love the job. And they might do as I did – check to see if anyone else made it before making the decision to close the door.
  2. Neither are the men. Increasingly the men I talk to in the industry worry about how valued their soft skills are. Many tell me that they feel they have to “toughen up” their approach even where they feel this is detrimental to the job. As one remarked to me earlier this month, it says a lot if women who are renowned for their soft skills don’t even get a look in – what does that say about what we value in construction?
  3. Or the young folk. I don’t need to point out that the industry has an image problem, or that a lot of the things associated with this problem are linked to macho stereotypes. What then do we think is the message we send to our young entrants about the industry when we say “this is the best our industry has to offer” and there is not a single woman in sight?
  4. Or our clients. It just cannot look good to be one of the only industry awards to be so very male dominated – how do we change an image that we insist on reinforcing?
  5. But we might all be. We need to really address these issues. We can’t keep waiting for things to improve, because they haven’t – not in the last 30 years. If we want improvement we need a strategic plan that understands gender, wider equalities, the construction sector at large and the real experience of working on site. Anything without this breadth of knowledge is likely to fall by the wayside.

CIOB, this is a ‘call to action’ – as a female member, I wish I had had your support way back when, but more importantly I want female members in the industry to have it now. So please start now to put something in place that understands and caters for your full membership. Mainstream your processes so they are not gender biased, put in place programmes to help the brightest make it to the top and take time to consider your own bias and presumptions.

I’m not saying CIOB are the worst offenders or that everyone else has their house in order, but I am saying that due to the project-based nature of work in the construction industry, the male dominance in CIOB related areas and the prevalence of the ‘old boys club’ style of promotion and recognition there is currently a gender bias towards men in industry and CIOB needs to take responsibility for the part it plays in this.

It isn’t just that there were no female finalists in the CMYA 2014, there were no female nominations – not one. Whilst our membership of women maybe small at 3.41% it still should have been representative – we should have seen 3.5 women if the system was fair. Even if you only went off of the data for fellows alone, there should have been 1.7 % representation from women within the nominees.

I need to be very clear that I am not talking about giving women credit where it is not due; I am talking about not giving credit where it is. I do not want to see women tokenistically appreciated – I want to see women rewarded for their hard work at the same proportional rate as their male peers, alongside their male peers.

This is not happening.

I believe it is incumbent upon the CIOB to reconsider its practices.

If CIOB do, I think you’ll find we will all become winners.

If you agree, please like, share or comment on this page to show CIOB your support for this issue.

That “Harry Potter” girl

Emma_Watson_Cannes_2013_3So, I imagine a few of you will have heard the talk that Emma Watson gave for the UN’s ‘he for she’ project which is inviting men to the table to talk about, and campaign for, greater gender balance. For those that didn’t, you can see it here.

In short, Emma explains how gender balance is an issue for men and women, and if more men started to identify as ‘feminist’ and support women, not only in the workplace but in all environments, life would be a little better for all of us. To help expand the point we have constructed a handy little graphic

 

 

 

Gender Stereotypes Outcome Action
Men should be strong, not show feelings, etc. Men suppress their feelings Increased stress through ‘bottling up’ feelings
Pressure on men to constantly achieve Men feel they have to be ambitious and reach the top Leads to increased working hours
Men’s work isn’t around the home or family Men don’t feel they are able to spend as much time with their little ones Stress and unhappiness
Men’s views of women Pressure to agree with misogynistic views to stay in group’s favour Feel isolated from group and unhappy at their own lack of action

 

Don’t get me wrong, of course the issues for women are very arguably greater – after all, 2 women die a week in the UK at the hands of their partner (105 each year compared to 17 men per year), we suffer from a gender pay gap and we are not equally represented at the highest levels of society.  But that’s only part of the picture. We need to start recognising that gender stereotyping and misogynistic behaviour hurts most people and that is why we need to work together to stop it.

Feminism is about equality, not about unfair advantage. It’s as much about men being able to be stay at home some days and feel respected for the valuable family role they are playing, as it is about women being able to feel safe walking down the street at night alone. Obviously some issues are more pressing than others, but working together against oppressive ideas can help move all of these challenges forward.

 

So what can you do?

For now, I only ask that you sign up to the ‘heforshe’ campaign then let us know you did so we can smile at what a lovely chap you are.

Because gender equality is very much our problem as a species, and that requires all of us working to overcome it.

Just 3 reasons why calling someone ‘coloured’ is offensive

Chrissi3-300x202To mark black history month we thought we would cover a question we get asked a lot – “Why is calling someone ‘coloured’ offensive?”

  1. Firstly, to use the terminology coloured implies that there are two types of people white and coloured. Think about this for a minute….. Can you see how this reduces whole cultures and societies not just to the colour of their skin, but more to the fact that the colour of their skin is not white? When we say coloured it inadvertently can sound like we are saying “not us” – even if that’s not what we mean.
  2. Secondly, it’s more useful if we are trying to describe an individual’s visual characteristics to use the actual colour of their skin. For example, have you seen my friend he/she is blond/red/brown/black haired, has olive/black/dark brown/white/tanned skin and is x tall etc. Saying they are ‘coloured’ isn’t really that helpful in this situation.
  3. Thirdly – does it need to be said? Is it important to the story, or is the addition of skin colour merely the reinforcement of a stereotype?  Think carefully about where you use skin colour to describe people – if it is not important to the narrative leave it out and ask yourself why you wanted to put it in.

A good rule of thumb is that when we are dealing with individuals, unless we are describing them visually for a real purpose, their skin colour is not important; in the workplace all people should be measured on individual merit.

We must remember though, that some people view it as important and refuse opportunities to those with what they deem to be the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ skin colour; that’s why it is important to see from a strategic view if organisations reflect the societies that they exist in – because if they don’t, they are likely to be missing out on the broad spectrum of talent (imagine only employing people from one street – you wouldn’t get the best in the country). Therefore it is important to sometime take an overview; it’s here that terminology like BME or BAME (black minority ethnic or black, asian and minority ethnic) comes in to play.

Let us know your views on this subject or the things that you might be confused about; often issues surrounding race are confused with different challenges regarding religion and immigration. If you would like to know more, or share your view, ask us in the comments or via email.

5 ways to promote fairness, inclusion and respect through your supply chain

Chrissi3-300x202We are often asked how best to promote fairness, inclusion and respect through supply chains. It can be a tricky business; the wrong decisions can cost your supply chain thousands and push them further backwards. It’s therefore important to understand how you can be most effective, what help is available and more importantly, how you can make sure fairness, inclusion and respect is seen as a business improvement tool, not a hurdle to jump over.

Here are five ways; you can…

  1. Treat them with respect. You must practice what you preach, if you are not fair to your supply chain how can you ask them to be fair to theirs? Often late payments drive a false self-employment model in sub-contracting companies which make fairness, inclusion and respect difficult to achieve; therefore the biggest impact to your supply chain might be to ensure your have a fair payment policy. This might sound like a big step but with the current skills shortage, becoming known as an ‘employer of choice’ could provide a winning long-term strategy for everyone.
  2. Listen to them. You won’t find out how to effectively support your supply chain unless you build trust with them. This will enable them to tell you the barriers they might face in creating an inclusive and fair culture. This is especially important if the barriers are something that you might be able to influence.
  3. Encourage them. Recognise their best practice and celebrate it, not just as part of the tender (though this should be part of it) but also on site, in your internal and external newsletters and in your publicity. You’ll be surprised how much people appreciate it when you notice their hard work.
  4. Support them. Appreciate your supply chain is usually smaller than you, which can make it harder for them to do the leg-work. So why not hold on-site training days to decrease the cost for staff – create  toolbox talks (or use Constructing Equality Ltd.’s free ones) around fairness, inclusion and respect for them, or direct them towards industry tools such as the CITB Be Fair framework.  Be Fair provides supporting documents and action plans that reduce the resource and labour cost to the business and attracts funding to cover financial costs.
  5. Value them. Make sure fairness, inclusion and respect forms part of your invitation to tender whether or not it’s asked for by the client. Ensure companies know that if they do take up this agenda you will consistently reward them for it. Use tools such as CITB’s Be Fair framework which includes a behavioural assessment to ensure they are doing what they say they are doing and not just completing the right paper work.

Then, once you’ve done all of that tell us so that we can promote your best practice and let you gain a little recognition for all of your hard work…

The CITB Be Fair Framework – 6 reasons your company should do Be Fair

RLDavies Awarded CITB Be Fair Accreditation (1) 17.9.14
R L Davies Awarded CITB Be Fair Accreditation

The CITB Be Fair framework is now up and running – we are the only provider licensed to deliver and consult on the framework and we have already signed up the first few companies including E R Williams and Emanuel Whittaker and MWT Civil Engineering. The CITB have pledged £100,000 to the first 100 companies to pass the framework and if that’s not reason enough to sign up we thought we would give you six more.

  1. Your clients are doing it – main contractors who have already worked through the framework include Vinci, Morgan Sindall, Wates, Graham, ISG and Lend Lease. What’s more the Highways Agency has backed the framework alongside Crossrail, and where infrastructure goes, the rest of public procurement follows.
  2. The industry needs it the challenges the industry has around retention, skills shortage, recruitment and equality are mostly structural. This means that they are bigger than any one company; therefore individual companies looking to overcome these challenges are likely to have to work extremely hard.  Even then they risk key talent that they have developed being poached by others who didn’t put the time in earlier. This means that the main way to overcome these challenges is working together as a sector and agreeing to key areas of improvement. This is where Be Fair comes in; it subtly changes industry culture and practices in a way that moves everyone forward.
  3. It gives more than it gets – it contains a ridiculous amount of advice and support. The framework aims to change the sector, not simply run up costs. So whilst you can pay for additional advice and guidance to help you though, you don’t have to. The framework is prescriptive and provides supporting documents so that even if you have no clue what you’re doing, as long as you follow the documentation, (at the accredited level at least) you should pass.
  4. It’s designed for industry and understands its challenges – it’s designed to embed change, through modules that fit the industry including supply chain and site environment alongside more traditional areas like organisational employment, policies and procedures and leadership.  This means that more than one person can take ownership of each module (especially in larger companies) to spread the load and the ownership. The framework is behaviourally assessed, which means that even if you have the best paperwork in the world it won’t matter if your staff are not brought in. This allows us to credit the best in the industry, not just those that look good on paper.
  5. It works for your business – already the framework has received a lot of praise with companies reporting a 10% rise in positive attitudes to equality and a 5% increase in overall employee engagement, increases in communications and motivation as well as positive attitudes across the business. Our stance on equality is that it should benefit business – that’s the point after all; equality is a solution to business need.
  6. CITB and the industry are backing it as a strategy for positive cultural change the industry has aligned behind the framework from the CITB itself to the UKCG; this was a strategic agreement that this is the way forward for industry. Worried that different constructors would adopt different standards for their supply chains, industry groups and boards got together to agree one framework for the sector. That framework is the CITB Be Fair framework.

Next steps: so if you want to find out more about the framework you can call our offices on 0151 706 8132 for a no obligation overview, email one of our business advisors paul@constructingequality.co.uk or Patrick@constructingequality.co.uk or visit the CITB website.

CITB 50th Birthday Pride of Construction Awards

The CITB has just turned 50 and to mark this achievement the Pride of Construction Awards were staged to celebrate individuals and companies who represent the very best of the sector. We were fortunate enough be invited along to the New Pictureawards which were an invitation-only event, and thought we might reflect on them from our perspective regarding fairness, inclusion and respect.

The first thing we should probably acknowledge is our bias, given that James Wates in his address spoke about the CITB Be Fair framework and its potential as a tool to change cultures and behaviours in the sector. It was not something we had been expecting to hear so we were more than pleasantly surprised, especially since it meant that afterwards there was a large number of contractors, clients, editors and CITB staff all wanting to talk about the framework’s potential and the credibility given to it by the mention in a key-note address.

For those of you who haven’t heard about the framework you can find out more here.

We felt the event did the industry proud, in the look and organisation (the food was amazing and the service was some of the best I’ve seen and I spent 8 years waiting-on as silver service), as well as the overall message and group categories. Those who spoke gave an impression of the sector that was professional, innovative and positive.

The awards given reflected a wide section of society (wider than industry stats it could be argued) and it was a delight to see so many very proud faces. We also felt having worked with some of the companies that won awards that there had been fairness in the judging and that small companies, who work so hard to make their businesses a success, were recognised alongside the larger organisations.  My favourite point of the evening was that The Mirror sponsored the Pride of Construction award was awarded to people who were currently working on site.

Overall this event was a very positive one and one of the best I have been to in industry with regards to fairness, inclusion and respect, we do though feel in the interest of progress we should outline where it could improve.

Now, no event will ever be perfect with regards to fairness, inclusion and respect – it’s a massive and very complicated area that changes over time which means that there has to be a focus on what it is reasonably practicable to do.  And I should add, this is not a bad thing and as long as you are addressing the biggest and most impactful challenges and you are generally progressing.

It is important though that we consider where we can improve;I will openly admit that even as an expert in equality I get things wrong and therefore hope people see these comments not as a criticism but rather as helpful advice when considering their own events.

There are a couple of things we could pick up on that aren’t that unusual in the sector such as the judging panel being entirely white male, all of the awards being awarded by men or the disproportionate number of black serving staff. Now before the cries of tokenism start let’s just think about why this is important.

Consider you are a young black man (if you are this will be easy), early in your career and looking at where you can go in the sector. There is a strong but subtle message that comes across when people who are visually similar to you are not represented at a higher level, but are abundant in a serving role.

I would imagine this wouldn’t be the reason people walk away from the industry, but if you do not find the same opportunities within their careers or face discrimination on the grounds of race then you may look to awards like this, or at the leaders of the sector, and wonder if the lack of representation is something that should inform your career decisions. The fact that the most prominent black person at the awards worked in another sector may only add to that narrative.

Solutions – Consider the mix of people in prominent positions and any message this may send to groups you are targeting in the sector. If we don’t send a clear message that there is a route to progress in the industry, talented people will walk away from the sector taking their skills and talent with them.

Solution – If the reason you have predominant group types in high profile positions is because you cant find a mix, don’t see this as a response – consider this an important challenge to be understood. Why do all of your key people reflect one section of society? How can you ensure the best, not just the similar,to rise to the top? Implement mentoring programmes, strong recruitment and progression practice and learn to appreciate that we promote in our own image. Without considering these things more carefully we may be compelled to accidently positively discriminate for white men – we need to open up the field.

We’ll leave you with a huge “Well done!” to the team at CITB who organised the awards in-house – I feel that in many ways this event made us very proud to be part of construction.

Women in Construction – Parliamentary Event Review

Chrissi3-300x202Last night I had the pleasure of being invited to the Women in Construction parliamentary workshop hosted by Meg Munn MP. The aim of the workshop was to consider some ideas around why there was an under-representation of women in construction and what could be done to improve the situation. So we thought this week we would offer you a review of the workshop and hopefully invite you to add your own thoughts in the comments.

Regular readers will probably have a fair understanding of our position on the topic but for those who are new, firstly hello, secondly…a recap: –

The problem – We feel that women and other minority groups are unfairly represented and treated in industry. This belief is based upon the many papers written specifically about the issue that find two thirds of women identify with being discriminated against in the construction work place.

Why is it a problem? – Although the construction industry is a brilliant sector to work in for many reasons, it’s also a sector with its challenges. We need to step back and consider whether or not, of the 2.5 million people working in the industry, the average white male is happy with their career? In an industry that often expects 70 hour working weeks, bogus self-employment contracts and a high stress environment the answer is not always the yes we might be seeking. So if the average man isn’t happy, what would happen if we added the challenges that face women to that picture? Would you accept unfavourable working conditions and discrimination? It’s a lot to ask. I’ll work 70 hours a week if you promote me –  I’m likely to just get frustrated if you don’t.

Why does it happen? – The reasons the average person is unhappy are systemic, and we need to take a wider view to change these – they include challenges such as late payment terms, suicide bidding and increasingly tight programmes.

The bigger problem is that these factors have a knock-on effect on discrimination. Research shows us that when we are happy and secure in our workplace we are more likely to act in an inclusive and equal way. When we are scared and concerned for our job security we are more likely to segregate and be prejudicial.

What might make it worse? – So if we are in a situation where people are worried about their jobs and you introduce a programme that appears to be giving one group an advantage over another, three guesses as to how that might turn out?

The solution – You need to establish a base level of fairness, inclusion and respect within your organisation. Only once your staff feel safe and have a positive attitude to equality (as they don’t see it as a threat to their own position) can you then start to implement positive action programmes. The CITB Be Fair framework was created to do just this, so that’s an easy win. Especially when you consider that the things you need to do in order to foster positive attitudes to equality also increase employee engagement (or organisational citizenship behaviour, as some of the text books are fond of saying).

Back to the workshop – it was introduced by Meg Munn, who unlike some of the politicians I have seen straddle this particular pony over the years seemed to have a real interest and passion in, not only talking about, but making some positive change regarding women, in the construction workplace and across the workforce in general. Her opening remarks were humorous and meaningful and it was good to see such support for the sector.

Next up was Simon Carr, the Managing Director of Henry Boot which is a company we have seen before in the equality arena. It was good to hear him share his best practice regarding the work undertaken and more importantly the value that leaders in the organisation placed upon it. It’s not many companies that field an MD at a diversity event so, kudos.

Judy Lowe, the Deputy Chair of CITB then gave her comments regarding the situation, focusing on the importance of the retention of women and the need to address this through fairness, inclusion and respect. She was kind enough to credit our paper alongside other academic work and so, of course, we are a little biased in our opinion, but we felt that she made important points that reflected the situation of many women in the sector.

Then to the round table groups; four groups in the room were tasked with addressing why women didn’t feel supported in the sector and how this could be moved forward. I don’t want to spoil the surprise as I know that a compilation of these is being worked upon, but overall many common themes were identified that it’s about leadership, having something to sign up to, supporting women, recognising the experience of women, appreciating working hours and many more – too many to list here.

Meg then summed up the points and to our surprise (and, of course, delight) mentioned the CITB Be Fair framework as a possible solution to these challenges.

Overall I felt the evening did a good job in bringing these issues to light. It could be said that the points raised have been established in research, both inside and outside of the sector, but that would be missing the point somewhat. The main thing is not that we are discovering new information, but rather that we were sharing it; and that information was not coming from one lone source but a number of sources independently. This I find is much more powerful and influential to those making decisions in industry than academic research, no matter how firmly academic research establishes the facts it presents.

Now we must focus on what comes next, which is taking this momentum and translating it into something that is practical and purposeful for the sector. Judy Lowe quoted me as saying that “over 20 years of initiatives have failed to make any impact on the number of women in the sector” – here we have a real opportunity to change that and I have a strong belief that if we continue to work together to increase our knowledge and share our findings, we will find ourselves not only with more women in the sector, but with more talent overall wanting to work in an industry that we are proud to work in.