CITB reveals new ‘streamlined’ 8-member board

james_wates_310Nick Boles, the Minister of State for Skills and Equalities, today announced CITB’s new Board which will revolutionise how the Industry Training Board operates, increase diversity and put industry at the heart of decision-making.

The streamlined eight-member Board includes five women from across the industry and brings together levy payers and independent members from England, Wales and Scotland, who will be able to make swift decisions based on the industry’s needs.  They will be supported by a CITB Council with members drawn from across the built environment sector.

Skills and Equalities Minister Nick Boles said, “The new Board will have a major role in helping this dynamic industry develop the skills it needs to grow. “I congratulate all the new Trustees on their appointment and look forward to seeing them working with business and employers to address the skills challenges faced by the construction sector.

“I am particularly pleased to see greater diversity on the Board and hope that it encourages more women to consider a career in construction.”

James Wates CBE, who will Chair the new Board said, “The appointment of a diverse, smaller, industry-led Board  marks the next stage of a reform programme that will make us even more relevant and responsive to the needs and ambitions of the industry we serve.

“Our industry is facing challenging times and I am delighted that the Secretary of State has appointed a Board which fairly reflects  our industry – both in terms of diversity and representation from all three UK nations.

“As an organisation we have made increasing the number of women in the industry a priority and I am proud that CITB is the first Non-Departmental Public Body to have a Board made up of over 50% women.

“I look forward to working with our new colleagues to drive change and make a lasting contribution to our industry in the year ahead.”

The membership of the new CITB Board is:

 Chairman

James Wates CBE, Chairman Wates Group

 Employers

Maureen Douglas, Group HR Director, Forster Group Ltd. (Scotland)

David Harris MBE, Managing Director, WRW Construction Ltd. (Wales)

Karen Jones, Group HR Director, Redrow plc.

Maria Pilfold, HR Consultant and former Director of the Taylor Wimpey Group

Ray Wilson, Director and General Manager, Carillion Training Services

 Independents

Dr. Diana Garnham, CEO, Science Council

Frances Wadsworth, Principal and CEO, Croydon College

Industry helpline offers counselling for construction workers

270x180_1418109148_wristbandThe Construction Industry Helpline aims to provide confidential, round-the-clock support to the construction industry’s workforce and their families on a range of topics including finance, depression, occupational health and wellbeing, illness and bereavement.

The service has been set up by construction’s charity, The Lighthouse Club, supported by the Considerate Constructors Scheme and several corporate sponsors.

It has no public money and relies entirely on the generosity and support of industry organisations, fundraising groups and individuals. Initial backers include Mulalley, Canary Wharf Contractors, Elev8 Interiors, Parkeray and Rydon.

As is the modern way, silicone wristbands are being sold to raise funds, as are A2 posters that promote the service.

Lighthouse Club chief executive Bill Hill said: “This unique helpline will give helpful advice to those facing difficult times as a result of unforeseen circumstances such as illness, accident or bereavement. I like to think of the construction industry as one big family with a duty of care and responsibility to its workers – as considerate constructors. I hope the industry and its workforce will benefit greatly from this worthwhile initiative.”

Edward Hardy, chief executive of the Considerate Constructors Scheme, added: “We’re delighted to support the launch of the Construction Industry Helpline to help our workforce in times of need. The construction industry has a macho image, but like all sectors of society and as in all industries, people encounter a wide range of professional and personal difficulties and it can be hard to know where to turn to get help. Anyone calling will know that they’re speaking to someone who understands the nature of the construction industry and that they can do so in absolute confidence. Supported employees will feel more secure and confident in their roles and will therefore be happier in their working environment. It’s a welcome development in the industry.”

The helpline number is 0845 605 1956 and the website is at www.constructionindustryhelpline.com

Read the full article at the Construction Index

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

Addressing construction industry skills shortages – “North West leads the way on fair working practices”

caroline2For this week’s blog we thought we’d like to show you an example of the good news we’ve been able to tell the press about the companies signing up for Be Fair – there’s no question that there’s been a groundswell in the North West so far, but we are also signing up and talking to companies that stretch from Scotland to the South Coast or are local to areas from London to Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire to Wales.

It has been fantastic to see the interest and drive from the companies so far for being part of the move to tackle their skills shortages by demonstrating fair working and employment practices for all. And the thing I love about my job is that when I speak with any of the companies taking on Be Fair, no matter what their question, I usually have an answer to help them – after all, that’s what Be Fair is for and what we as Assessment Providers are here for…to help and support companies to be the employers of choice they deserve to be or to win the work they want.

 

North West leads the way on fair working practices

North West based contractors; Rosslee Construction, Emmanuel Whittaker, E.R. Williams and TMJ Contractors, have been amongst the first companies to sign up for the CITB Be Fair Framework. The Be Fair Framework is a construction specific action-plan that recognises fair working conditions, employment practises and behaviours leading to national accreditation.

This exciting and innovative framework is industry led, designed for the construction industry by the construction industry to promote a greater atmosphere of respect and to encourage best practice within the sector. North West firms are leading the way as some of the first contractors to embrace the framework, which is now being rolled-out across the construction sector.

Rosslee Construction, Emmanuel Whittaker, E.R. Williams and TMJ Contractors will be working with us at Constructing Equality Ltd. (the UK’s leading experts on equality and diversity in the construction industry), for assessment and support of the Framework, under licence from CITB. Our Be Fair Service Manager, Caroline Gee, said:

“We are very excited to be working with these local companies on Be Fair as some of the first contractors to lead the way for the construction industry in demonstrating they are fair employers and the kind of company people want to work for. The Be Fair Framework was successfully piloted nationwide over the last year, and has been a catalyst for business development for the companies who have taken part.”

Nine North West companies gained accreditation through taking part in the 2013 pilot; Cull Dry Lining and Plastering Ltd, Highwire Limited, Holloway Cook Associates Ltd, ISG plc (North West Region), MAC Roofing, Penny Lane Builders Ltd, Southport Gate, The Sovini Group (One Vision Housing), and Walter Carefoot and Sons Ltd.

Companies taking on the CITB Be Fair Framework and wishing to use Constructing Equality Ltd as their licensed provider for assessment can sign up directly through Constructing Equality Ltd or can select them at the registration point with CITB. Companies in-scope to CITB can currently take advantage of a £1000 incentive for accrediting under the framework.

Further information on Be Fair can be found on our website.

http://constructingequality.co.uk/befairframework/

 

To see what companies who have used us as their provider say, visit our testimonials page

http://constructingequality.co.uk/about-us/testimonials/

 

Be Fair articles

Considerate Constructors Scheme http://www.ccscheme.org.uk/index.php/citb-s-be-fair-framework

Institute of Historic Building Conservation http://ihbconline.co.uk/newsachive/?p=7875

Project Scotland http://www.projectscot.com/2014/04/citb-celebrates-diversity-with-new-industry-award-given-to-graham/

Building Contractors Training Group http://www.bctg.uk.com/macform-fair-accreditation/

 

For further information and details companies taking on Be Fair can contact Constructing Equality Ltd on 0151 706 8132 or via Patrick@constructingequality.co.uk

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.

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…

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.

“Touched up” – understanding what sexual harassment says about the work-place

Chrissi3-300x202In a week where Rolf Harris has found himself before the courts on a number of sexual harassment charges, we thought it would be a good idea to explain why sexual harassment is a wide spectrum with far reaching implications; that it isn’t down to the individual (man, trans or woman) to complain when it has happened to them, it’s down to the individual (again man, trans or woman) not to inappropriately touch other people.

Sounds obvious? I wish.

We live in a society where inappropriate touching (formally known as sexual harassment) is not taken as seriously as it should be. Personally I’ve been told to “lighten up” when complaining about a colleague grabbing my backside. We have to understand this sends a serious message to people – it says: –
You are in the wrong for NOT putting up with it.

The reason this is a serious message? Besides the fact that it makes people uncomfortable, oppressed, stressed, angry or annoyed? – It also makes people seek new employers and even new industries.

Now I’m not saying construction is the worst sector for this, but we are certainly not the best and we have to start looking at the way we approach things and how this sets individuals up to believe they are entitled to grab, grope and maul away to their perverted heart’s content.

Please note I’m not talking about drunken dalliances with co-workers on nights out here – that’s a different conversation that many of us have stumbled into. Rather, this blog is about how we approach complete strangers in a professional setting.

Let’s use a real life example. We were recently at an awards dinner where the “entertainment consisted of semi-naked women standing around by doors, or doing a bit of sexually charged dancing. There were male entertainers but they were fully clothed and carrying out a skill such as juggling” The first message sent here is that women are primarily there to be looked at, men on the other hand have a use.

Not a great start, but for those of you who might think that I’m looking for it, I agree that as a one off I could let this slide – turns out though they had the same set up the year before – come on, that’s sending a message surely?

Later on in the evening the female host (a very funny and entertaining woman) gave a summation of the tables including the most likely to pass out, the most welcoming, the one that called her an ‘ugly tart’ and the table to go to “if you want your arse touched up”.

The room laughed, and whilst I understand she delivered it in a humorous way – she had to it was her job – as a room we should have been appalled. At a time when we are talking about how we improve the industry’s image, especially to outsiders, what on earth makes us think that that sends out a positive view of the sector?
When I explained my concerns to the organiser the response was, “she didn’t complain, so it’s not a problem”.
I am concerned that if that’s the best we can do at an event that named itself the very best and most progressive of the industry.

As a woman in that room I felt undervalued, I felt that sent a clear message – touching women up is funny, if you don’t think so you’re the problem. For me, the organisers of that evening sent a clear communication. We want women in the industry, as long as they let us touch their asses and laugh at our jokes.

We must, all of us, consider our impact. How can we berate the stereotypical image of a wolf-whistling man on site and not see that this behaviour as equally wrong, if not worse?

The silver-lining was the amount of men that approached us, clients, main contractors and sub-contractors to ask what we thought and voice their own disappointment, and I quote a male bricklayer “it’s outdated and simply not the right place”.

If you’re arranging an event in the industry and you’re unsure of how to arrange entertainment and facilitation that is inclusive and enjoyable, do feel free to get in touch.