Bovis Homes recently hosted an event that brought together women from across its business staff to find out how the gender skills gap should be tackled to attract a greater proportion of female personnel.
The event was titled ‘100 years, 100 women’ and it was attended by Bovis Homes employees from a range of backgrounds who discussed what needed to be done to increase the number of women working in the construction industry. The audience enjoyed speeches from Lt Col Katie Hislop, who talked about her experiences as a female within the Armed Forces, and Jenny Herdman, the director for the Home Building Skills Partnership.
“Since women were given the right to vote 100 years ago, there have been huge strides in the rights for women and equality, but females are still in the minority within the housebuilding sector,” says Vicky Beckwith, head of human resources at Bovis Homes. “We are aware that there is a certain perception of the industry and we’re keen to try and change this.
“It was really interesting day, which will not only help us to move forward as a company, but also help the industry as a whole. As well as having a range of break-out sessions where ideas were fed back to the room, we also asked the attendees a variety of questions to help us find out and explore what they felt were the important factors in helping to encourage women into the industry.”
Attendees were asked questions such as “How can we encourage women to work on our sites?” and “What can we do to improve the number of women working in housing building?”, and the most popular response was “education”.
“We’ve noticed at many of the career fairs that we’ve attended that girls seem to bypass us, thinking that housebuilding is a job for men,” continues Beckwith. “However, there’s so much variety and opportunity within the sector and we think we need to start changing these perceptions and encourage more women. There are huge opportunities working within construction. If you work for a housebuilder, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are working out on a building site. We have jobs ranging from marketing, sales and graphics to commercial, technical and surveying. We’ve had women start in these roles, and then move to more site-based roles, or vice versa.”
Currently, 38% of the Bovis Homes workforce of 1,280 is female, with 13 of them on its developments as site managers, assistant site managers and in trades. One of them is Rachel Colin, currently working in Didcot as an assistant site manager. She says: “As part of my architectural engineering degree, I did a year in placement and as part of this I worked out on site – and I loved it! I really enjoy that every day is completely different. You can go to work thinking that you know what the day holds, and then it will completely change! I really like the problem-solving aspect of it and the organisation and project management side of the job too. The tradesmen are really down-to-earth and straight-talking and it’s great being outside.”
The opinions and suggestions of the women at the event are now being reviewed by the housebuilder to decide what new ideas to implementing in order to encourage more women into the company and the industry as a whole.