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.
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.
“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.