No more women’s awards……?

Several weeks ago now I had the privilege of attending the Women in Construction awards in Manchester. It was a superb evening, and great to see so many exceptional women from our industry applauded for their leadership, expertise and commitment.

Now ….gender diversity is a touchy subject, I accept that. There are no easy answers. But the undeniable fact is that women are vastly under-represented in our industry.

This has been discussed much more in recent months, and it’s good to see this is being recognised as an issue.

However, putting this injustice right and the methods for doing that divides opinion. For me as a white middle-aged professional, it’s not an issue I’ve had to face in terms of gender discrimination.

And just to put on record that I have worked with and currently work for and with a number of exceptionally talented women in various arenas.

Talking to some women on the awards evening whilst recognising it was a great evening they also felt sad it was an awards evening purely for women. Wouldn’t it be great if the awards we have fairly recognised the achievements of both genders. Perhaps one day we won’t need an evening specifically for women’s awards. Remember when CMYA was heavily criticised for lack of women represented in their categories? It hasn’t particularly improved has it? Is it because there aren’t the women (which I don’t believe) or is it they not being supported by their peers to come forward? Or something else? Maybe awards for women are a necessary evil for now?

Proposing change raises the hackles of  some. Talk of quotas and targets gets some men saying it’s unfair on the talented men who might be disadvantaged. Fair point I guess but this totally overlooks the decades if not centuries of disadvantage many women have faced and still face daily. Are they then expected to just put up with it and hope that somehow this will just sort itself out? (Let’s face it, the playing field has been unequally disposed against women for a long time. Shouldn’t we take positive action to even this up?)

This could equally be said in relation to sexuality, ethnicity and physical/mental ability. Our industry has a long way to go in terms of diversity and inclusion and putting its’ house in order.

I don’t know or have the answers here. But I do want to keep this firmly on the industry agenda. We need to keep talking about this so that at least it remains uppermost in our thoughts.

To me it is unacceptable to expect women and minorities to continue to struggle to be represented and succeed in an industry whose sub-culture is consistently skewed against their success. Equally to expect this to somehow magically right itself through osmosis without positive action defeats me.

Flexibility of working, equal pay and opportunities for development, recognition and respect. These are things we all want and deserve. Whilst the technology we now have and is developing won’t solve all of these issues it can help make our work and life more accessible. And help provide opportunity for all.

If we listen to the naysayers then I guess this might change and improve but very very slowly. Perhaps taking several generations. I don’t think we can wait that long! We all need role models and if we can’t see those people we aspire to be then we’re less likely to join in and push ourselves to develop.

Women need to see their role models in the industry. If we expect young women to be inspired to join in, then they need to see those role models in action. Some companies get this. And their diversity stats reflect this also. Studies have shown that businesses and teams with balanced diversity are more successful and productive.

I guess the challenge for us all is to push through for an industry that is diverse, inclusive and successful. I’m left wondering that if we don’t fix this soon we may not have an industry at all. The demographics are working against us here – an ageing workforce, lack of recruitment of young people, a skills crisis, leading to an industry in even more crisis than it is now. Leading to enforced change and restructuring.

Great awards evening, great fun, but we really need them to be in context, don’t we?

Let’s have an industry where we can all have the opportunities for success and fulfilment that we deserve irrespective of gender, race, sexuality and background.That’s something to aspire to!

Cheers! :o)





2 thoughts on “No more women’s awards……?

  1. Great article John. My profession of landscape architecture is pretty evenly balanced but we that balance reduces as at senior levels.

    I’ve seen all too clearly some of the issues – it can be very frustrating. Some of it can be well intentioned, such as assuming those with child care responsibilities won’t want or be able to take on larger projects. Some is overt and blatant and takes a strong nerve to rise above.

    I know the team at HS2 are doing some excellent work, including anonymous shortlisting for jobs so there is no chance of unconscious bias.

    Some ideas include making sure event line ups are diverse (this really does matter) and providing good role models. We also need to explore our education system as we lose women in the process – why?

    As we continue to face a skills shortage it seems insane not to work hard to retain the women who have joined us and to encourage those who are considering construction as a career.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said Claire and thanks for your candour. As a man these are things I haven’t faced and as much I want to empathise and support, it’s difficult to imagine how it feels. As I said I don’t know the answers but we need to keep it high up the agenda.I’m more than happy to support wherever I can. Best J.


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