Don’t Get Distracted

Maya Angelou

In the same week that Maya Angelou, world-renowned and respected writer, poet and civil activist – “…a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace”, died at her home in North Carolina we are worrying through the media about how despite Scotland  being more ethnically diverse (2011 Census) than ever, the proportion of Britons admitting to being racially prejudiced is increasing.


As a contemporary and colleague of key figures striving for people’s civil rights like Malcom X and Dr Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou has been central to some monumental moments in history in the fight for fairness, tolerance, respect and equality.


Maya Angelou taught us all so much about women’s rights too and about humanity in general – she gave us so many lessons to learn that it would behove us to try to live up to her legacy rather be waylaid by an apparent avalanche of backsliding on the journey towards equality that seems to be hanging over us.

Industry Feedback from our Construction Specific Online Equality Training

Over the course of this month we’ve been gearing up for the launch of our online learning. The courses are written, and they have a content that is not only highly informative but also interactive and engaging.

But how can we be sure? The only way to tell was to send out samples to companies from the construction industry and ask them to test it for us, and send in feedback. We sent our samples to leading industry organisations including BAM, Costain, HochtiefMurphy Joint Venture, Seddon, Shepherd, Robertson, CIC, CITB and Miller.


100% of testers said that: The objectives were clearly outlined and met, The content was informative and useful, The presentation had the right level of interactivity, There were enough resources supplied and they all liked us presenting it.

Question One Picture (2) PB 16.05.2014

Question Three Picture (1) PB 16.05.2014

The respondents also commented that the construction industry focus was very useful, as the training addressed the specific challenges faced by the sector. They also pointed out that they felt the training was engaging for the potential audience, and that the interactive aspects were good. The clarity of presentation was highlighted as a strong point, with the information we were conveying being concise and thorough.

There were a few technical issues brought to our attention, but they have now been remedied.

Question Liked Construction (1) PB 16.05.2014

The one hour introduction to Equality in Construction will be available from the 4th of June with a launch webinar on the 30th of June at 1pm  please get in touch if you would like a sample of the training or to register your interest in the webinar.





“Isn’t that discrimination?” Why not getting what you want isn’t illegal.

Blog PictureLast week I politely advised a commenter on LinkedIn that I would not be responding to any of his further posts as I felt he had been using abusive and demeaning language towards another contributor. The person in question asked if I was not in fact discriminating against him by choosing not to respond.

Since this is a question I regularly hear posed, I thought it would be useful to explain why yes – I am discriminating, but legally, no – I’m not breaching the law as well as what equality law says on the matter and why this question has a hidden undertone in the context it was used – even if the user is not aware of it.

Was I discriminating?

Yes, I am choosing not to respond. That means I discriminated, distinguished, differentiated, favoured and preferred not to respond. Let me be clear – this is not illegal and in this case for two reasons, i.e. firstly the thing I was discriminating against and secondly the environment I was in.

What can’t I discriminate against?

The law provides a list of nine things, called protected characteristics which you can’t discriminate against. In order to become a protected characteristic the thing must be unrelated to your ability to do your job and have historically been something that people would treat others less favourably because of.

This law is meant to help and protect people that are being prevented from gaining access to work and promotion or receiving hostile behaviour in the workplace. This is not positive discrimination. It does not mean someone with a protected characteristic should be given an advantage over someone without; instead it recognises that if you have a protected characteristic, you are more likely to be at a disadvantage.  This is simply trying to ensure everyone gets the same chance.

What are the protected characteristics?

  • Sex,
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Religion and belief
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Marriage and civil partnership

Does where you discriminate matter?

Yes, in the eyes of the law. The Equality Act looks at different environments, such as the workplace, or the provision of goods and services and applies anti-discrimination law. It doesn’t apply outside of these stated environments, though other laws, such as hate law which prevents the incitement of violence on the grounds of a protected characteristic, may apply.

“But that wasn’t what I wanted to happen – it’s not fair.”

Life rarely is to any of us, but discrimination law helps us to understand that it is often far, far, far more unfair to some groups than others. 

As a company, we strongly believe that all people in the workplace should have access to a minimum standard of protection and also minimum standards within working environments which we don’t always feel are provided across the entire construction sector. We also feel that to move this agenda forward this is the position that we need to start from. BUT –  and it’s a big but – we don’t think that means that the equality agenda becomes unimportant, quite the opposite; we must still strive to understand the experiences of others to retain and attract key talent and to understand how to create an industry that people want to work in, not just put up with.

Women in the Workplace- did BIS miss the point?

Yesterday the BIS report looking at women in the workplace came out after an extensive period of investigation that included evidence from Architects for Change, WAMT and ourselves, as well as consultation through Mumsnet and Women’s Hour. The conclusion of the report brought up many relevant and important points including flexible working, stereotyping and support for the Public Sector Equality Duties. Whilst I applaud this work and feel it is all vital I can’t help but think it’s missing an important point.
Most of it is designed to: get women into careers, overcome barriers around child-care or support them into senior roles, with very little considering those already in non-stereotypical roles struggling to crack the glass ceiling1or even just find supportive employment. But although some of the conclusions it covers, like positive action, equality impact assessments and pay-transparency could help, the likelihood in the construction sector is that these things will have little impact.
Whilst I am often met with the assumption that women leave the sector to have children most of the women I know that have left, or are looking to leave, do so before they have even thought about reproducing 2–5.  This for me highlights a very important point; something else is driving them away.  I know for many this seems like too big, or small, a problem to deal with depending on your mind-set, but I believe the answer is quite simple – support.  Studies have shown that women are more likely to stay, and be loyal to an organisation, if they feel it would support her and looking back over my own career I would agree – it was never the negative instances that bothered me as much as the company’s inability, or refusal,  to do anything about it.
More women are embarking on construction-related degrees every year, but we are losing them just as quickly – a critical mass approach does not seem to be working 6,7. Without understanding the challenges and barriers that women in the sector face, and putting in adequate measures to support them, as well as talking about dated views and sub-conscious biases that deny them progression opportunities, the encouragement of more women into the sector might simply end up with more women leaving it.
As organisations we need to start understanding that in this situation silence does not equal happiness – we must be proactive in supporting our women without overtly singling them out and understand that they may well be as in-the-dark about what’s holding them back as you are.  This change won’t happen overnight, but by giving your workforce a reason to trust that you understand, or are at least willing to find out about, the real barriers they face and show that you have moved beyond obvious myths, it will come.
Happy Building
1.           Gurjao, S. Inclusivity : the Changing Role of Women in the Construction.CIOB (2006).
2.           Graft-Johnson, A. De, Manley, S. & Greed, C. Why Do Women Leave Architecture?: Research Into the Retention of Women in Architectural Practice. (2003).at <>
3.           Bagilhole, B. M., Dainty, A. R. J. & Neale, R. H. A Woman Engineer  ’ s Experiences of Working on British Construction Sites *. Int. J. Engng Ed.18, 422–429 (2002).
4.           Powell, A., Dainty, A. & Bagilhole, B. A poisoned chalice? Why UK women engineering and technology students may receive more “help” than their male peers. Gender and Education 23, 585–599 (2011).
5.           Bennett, J. F., Davidson, M. J., Galeand, A. W. & Gale, A. W. Women in construction : a comparative investigation into the expectations and experiences of female and male construction undergraduates and employees Women in construction : a comparative investigation into th.Women In Management Review Emerald Article : (2005).
6.           Powell, A., Bagilhole, B. M. & Dainty, A. R. J. The problem of women’s assimilation into UK engineering cultures: can critical mass work? Equal Opportunities International 25, 688–699 (2006).
7.           Greed, C. Women in the Construction Professions: Achieving Critical Mass. Gender, Work and Organization 7, 181–196 (2000).


  1. Is this inequality in the construction industry in particular just UK experience or world-wide? Do more women stay in the construction industry and related professions in other countries? If so can we learn from their experience?


  2. Hi Caroline, the situation can differ vastly. For example in Ethiopia women often work on site as labourers but are less represented in the professions – the opposite situation to the UK. Australia and some scandinavian countries report higher women over all in the professions but this can vary between roles with architecture usually being the most represented. We can of course learn from these countries, but we must understand that stereotyping of roles plays an important factor and can create a barrier in one country that does not exist in another. This is why support is so important.