Boosting Women's Participation in Construction: A call for employers to ‘Hire Boldly’

Women in Trades -  Hire Boldly 2024 Campaign-183.jpg

BCITO has launched a new ‘Hire Boldly’ campaign aimed at employers in the building and construction trades, to help boost the number of women entering the industry. The number of women in BCITO apprenticeships has grown from less than one percent in 2015, however women still only make up just over six percent of apprentices. BCITO’s goal is to raise this figure to 10 percent by December 2025, through focusing on addressing ongoing misperceptions about women’s ability to take on physical jobs.

Reaching this goal will clearly signal the industry is moving forward and considering people based on skills and ability for the role, not gender. In the painting industry, where 24 percent of BCITO apprentices are female, it is no longer unusual to see a woman at the business end of a spray gun, brush or roller.

"Despite the recent slowdown in resource consents and the pipeline of work for New Zealand's building industry, it's vital to ensure we have healthy numbers of new people entering the construction industry and building skills for the future. Encouraging more women into the workforce is not only a matter of equality but a strategic move to strengthen our industry's resilience. Employers play a critical role in shaping the future of construction,” says Greg Durkin, Director at BCITO.

In a 2021 report for the Women in Trades Collective, part of industry initiative Trade Careers, almost half of respondents to the employer survey (48 percent) agreed that hiring and supporting women tradespeople was a challenge because it would be hard to accommodate pregnant women in the workplace. Forty-six percent also said they would find it difficult to hire women because the workplace can be physically challenging.

Women looking for work cited receiving questions from potential employers such as “you realise there is dirt involved in this job?”, or the outright statement “we’re looking for a male”.

“When we have examples such as the BuildHERS project in Whenuapai, a four-bedroom home project-managed and built entirely by a female crew, they demonstrate how outdated or misinformed these perceptions are. Women can do anything their male colleagues can do, and that’s what we hope to educate more employers about, to help the whole sector reach a goal of 30 percent female representation by 2040,” Durkin says.

Employing more women in construction brings numerous benefits. By encouraging more women to join the workforce, employers can tap into a broader talent pool. A diverse workforce also brings varied perspectives, leading to innovative solutions and improved problem-solving. Women can offer new ideas and approaches that benefit the entire industry. Companies known for their commitment to diversity and inclusion often enjoy a better reputation, which can attract top talent and improve relationships with clients and partners.

Meanwhile, more inclusive workplaces also tend to have higher employee satisfaction and retention rates.

“The women and the men bounce off each other in ways that enhance the job. It’s been fabulous for us. In fact, we’ve become quite successful through it,” says Maria Williams, co-owner of family business Kevin Paul Painters and Decorators, which also employs daughter Lonae Paul as part of a diverse crew.

To accompany the campaign, BCITO has created videos telling the stories of fathers, uncles, grandfathers and brothers who have not just hired women in trades but have seen positive changes within their businesses. Many like Kevin and Maria also talk about why their trade is a good career for their female family members.

“We’re calling on all building and construction employers to watch and share these videos, and actively participate in fostering a more inclusive trades industry by considering female apprenticeships,” Durkin says.

For more information, visit www.buildingwomen.nz.

How Employers Can Make a Difference

  • Review hiring practices: Ensure that job advertisements and recruitment processes are inclusive and free from gender bias. Consider implementing blind recruitment practices to focus on skills and experience.
  • Create supportive work environments: Develop policies and practices that support work-life balance and provide a safe and respectful workplace for all employees. Consider flexible working arrangements and mentorship programmes.
  • Promote training and development: Encourage and support female employees to pursue training and career development opportunities. This not only benefits the individual but also strengthens the overall skill set of the workforce.
  • Lead by example: Senior leaders and managers should actively promote diversity and inclusion within their teams. This includes addressing any unconscious biases and championing the benefits of a diverse workforce.
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