Despite some progress, 48% of buy-to-let investors in the UK are now women, still only 11% of the UK construction industry (made up of over 2.5 million people) are women. In light of International Women’s Day, it is important to explore how we can continue to improve and champion gender equality in the property industry in what still continues to be a male-dominated field.
Andrea Fawell, Sales and Marketing Director at Kebbell, discusses 10 ways that gender equality progress can be made in the property and construction industry.
Men need to be feminists. Men have a critical role to play and need to ensure equality. Things have improved hugely, wolf-whistling on building sites is now a thing of the past, but there is still some way to go and men need to be part of calling out the disparity in pay or opportunities, and unacceptable behaviour from colleagues. Unless it is pointed out, most people don’t know they are showing bias, or even being offensive.
Stop unconscious bias from women towards other women. We need to call ourselves out on unconscious woman-to-woman bias by taking time for self-awareness and to reflect that we should do better to champion other women and to break down unhelpful female-constructed stereotypes.
Debunk ‘women have to work 10 times harder to get half as far’. Leaders need to ensure this is neither true nor necessary. Women still feel pressure to work more than their contracted hours in order to prove their value and commitment and this doesn’t need to be the case.
We need to value that we all bring different things to the table. Some of us are more emotionally intelligent than others, some of us are logical thinkers; we need to play to our strengths for real change. Pursuing equality in property does not mean women want to be seen as men, rather they simply want to be accepted as qualified, experienced and educated team players and listened to, respected, trusted, and recognised for what they do.
Parity of Pay and Parity Fullstop. Women want equal pay, status, opportunities and roles in decision-making. Looking through a lens on pay alone, there is a considerable lack of women in the highest-paying roles across property and construction. 2018 saw the construction industry as the worst performing with regard to the pay gap, with a median difference of 30.1% between male and female workers. In many companies, employees don’t work to pay grades and don’t know what each other is paid. In order to ensure women are paid equally there still needs to be a change in culture about pay reviews and performance-related pay to ensure women are paid what they are worth not just what male colleagues are being paid. This is often best achieved by setting benchmarks for performance to ensure aligned remuneration.
Flexibility of Hours. Leaders need to change how to get the best out of all workers whilst appreciating how both men and women are trying to balance their lives. One thing we have to thank the pandemic for is it definitely opened the door to more flexible working. Women are increasingly taking control of their needs. Women and men now make their hours work for them if, for example, they want to pick their child up from school. Equally its more possible for men to share more in those responsibilities with their partners. It is then on the individual to ensure any adjustment to working hours is seamless. It is a refreshing and healthy change to working conditions that has become normalised, in a way that before they may have felt it would somehow count against them. A hybrid workplace works well for blended work patterns.
Unbiased Recruitment. I am a strong believer that we shouldn’t set quotas for equal representation, but the recruitment process must be unbiased, for example by having women on a recruitment panel. Women don’t want positive discrimination; they simply want to be chosen and recognised as the best person for that role.
Ensuring progression despite career breaks to have children. Women are still penalised for having children and face glass ceilings. There are still assumptions being made that women may not be able to handle as much work as men because of family responsibilities, or because they are of a certain age, so men are given more opportunities.
Challenging The Stereotypes. Stereotypes that women are too sensitive, overly emotional, or if they work in a male-dominated industry, not feminine enough, are a constant threat to equality. Some of us still have a narrative and are inadvertently telling our children, that property and construction jobs are still mostly for men. Talking to them about bias, prejudice, equality, inclusion and diversity from a young age will be the driver towards change for future generations.
Women need to feel safe. There are improvements but women want a safe working environment without misogyny, microaggressions and harassment in and outside the workplace. Having transparent and effective policies to deal with these issues in the workplace is key. Work should not be about powerplay.
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