It could be argued that women have made huge steps towards equality recently. With a female Prime Minister for the UK and female First Ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland, 2017 could become the year women catch up with men.
At Midland Lead, however, we think there’s still work to be done for gender equality, particularly in the roofing industry. That’s why we sponsored the second annual Women in Roofing Conference, which took place on the 10th of March in the East Midlands.
Speaking about the conference, our own marketing manager, Francoise Derksen said: “We attended the Women in Roofing Conference last year and we feel strongly about what the organisers were trying to achieve. Women in Roofing aims to bring together like minded individuals in the roofing industry and help them to realise their full potential, create value and make a difference. This is something we passionately try to instill within our own company culture.”
This year’s conference focused on how to develop key action points that can be taken forwards to narrow gaps in the industry by attracting and retaining the best people.
Francoise commented: “The sessions were interactive discussions rather than lectures so we all gained a great deal from it. We looked at how perceptions of the industry are causing it to be sidelined as a career choice by the millennial generation and how this can be worked on as we address the diversity gap.”
After a lively morning, the afternoon session was led by James Talman, CEO of the NFRC, who led discussions on what the industry can do to ensure construction does not deplete resources for future generations.
We spoke to one of the conference’s key organisers Livia Williams, who is also Co-Founder of the Women in Roofing Management project, NFRC Head of Training and RIA Training Manager. She works tirelessly to drive change through fairness, inclusion and respect in the roofing industry, in a bid to modernise, broaden horizons, and address top strategic priorities in relation to industry image, skills shortage and talent retention.
“It’s so important that we make the industry more appealing for women. The issue is that there is a huge misconception about what kind of roles are available for women in construction. The truth is that women can fulfill any task that a man can, especially now that machines do the majority of manual lifting. There are positions available on the factory floor as well as well as in engineering, management, marketing and so much more,” Livia added.
To help break down stereotypes surrounding the construction industry and to address the skills shortage, the NFRC has been engaging with schools through various local initiatives and the WorldSkills’ Skills Show and the Skillbuild Competition. Construction ambassadors work with schools to educate teachers and students on the plethora of jobs available within construction and how it can lead to an extremely fulfilling career.
Livia added: “Companies like Midland Lead are also really leading the way with diverse workforces and forward thinking. Change needs to be shaped from the top. Management in particular should promote best practice and strive to understand how individuals work. We are not all the same, that applies to men just as much as women.”
Despite the strides of progress women have made in recent years, The Office for National Statistics data and industry surveys show that of the 2.3 million people working in the construction industry, only 296,000 of these are women.
At Midland Lead we believe gender shouldn’t play a part in career choice. Women should not feel restricted to some jobs, and men to others. It would be amazing to see more women in the industry.