Evidence shows that the view on gender has dramatically shifted in the past 35 years. In 1984, 42 per cent of people said that men are expected to be a family’s breadwinner, further agreeing that women should be the main homemaker in a household. In 2019, only eight per cent of people shared these views.

Gender is only one aspect of diversity and equality that workplaces aim to resolve. Other factors include age, disability, and race. The workplace should be an environment that brings an understanding that no one should be obstructed from any sector of work. Fortunately, while there is still more to be done, there is no shortage of amazing stories from people who are demonstrating a change in a variety of working roles. Here, we look at the pioneers are leading the fight for equality in the construction sector and why construction leaders should hire more diverse voices in 2021.

Quarry on working

Emily Burridge is one hard worker who is taking the world of construction by storm. Starting in an apprenticeship scheme, Burridge has excelled in what is typically considered a male-orientated industry. Showing why the sector must recognise the talents and benefits of diverse roles, she achieved the status of quarry manager by the age of 22. While showing that gender should not be a limiting factor in the construction sector, she also champions the case for age equality in the workplace. After working on 25 quarries, Burridge replaced a man who was of retirement age. Now, though her staff are mostly older men, she has no trouble integrating with the workforce and leading her team.

No obstacles for Todd

Apprenticeship schemes are proving to be great entry points for those looking to gain access to any sector. Businesses are using apprenticeships to develop skills and reward workers for dedication. One apprentice scaffolder, Todd Scanlon, is proving his vocation and surpassing any obstacles placed in his way. Scanlon, who has Down’s Syndrome, says that he always wanted to work in scaffolding. After talking to a local company, his determination was rewarded with a permanent position on the team.

His enthusiasm was noticed, winning him On The Tools’ prestigious ‘UK’s Best Apprentice’ award in 2019. Martyn Coles, of Coles Scaffolding, says that the apprentice has more than proven his skill and willingness to learn over and over again: “I think it’s mainly because it is thought people with a disability shouldn’t be in our industry. He’s just shown that you can do it with the right guidance. He’s just a likeable guy.”

Todd has proven that nothing gets in the way of work. Diversifying a team can help to make the workplace a better environment for all workers.

Tackling race

In the UK, there is still an under-representation of ethnic voices in the construction industry. One index by Business in the Community found that despite ethnic minority groups making up 14 per cent of the population, in the construction sector only 3.4 per cent of managers have an ethnic background.

Anjali Pindoria is a project surveyor. While she says there are still difficulties, she welcomes the change that the construction sector is experiencing: “There are now more platforms where I can go and share my experiences on panels and speaking events. It’s about educating people and telling people to be more inclusive towards BAMEs, in order to start to change mindsets.

“As for who my role models are — they are my dad Chem Naran and my uncle Avi Kara. I have seen them graft from being carpenters to directors, and you can see how they’ve pushed against every barrier that they’ve had.”

Pindoria believes that a more diverse group can help to create a better product, which is key to encouraging the promotion of minority groups within the sector to achieve equality.

The future of the industry

Diversity and equality are essential for the construction industry to continue with increasing success. The unique experience of individuals allows for new perspectives to enter and improve businesses.

Richard Walker from SkipHire UK, who provides skip hire Birmingham services, agrees that this is exactly what these industries need: "For too many years the industry has suffered from a negative perception and reputation creating a stigma that has acted as a barrier to entry to a more diverse talent pool of workers. As innovation and technology play its part in modernising ways of working in the sector, together with schemes such as apprenticeships, we’re not only seeing a more diverse workplace, but a more talented, skilled, and varied workforce.”

The construction sector is building a strong platform for historically underrepresented groups in the industry. While there is still a long way to go, it is encouraging to see the voices of people who breakthrough into an industry that has been dominated by white males for years. In 2021, construction leaders should encourage a culture that is accepting of everyone in order to improve their business and their work.

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