Flexible working and working mums

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Construction doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to women. Last year the results of the gender pay gap report showed that construction has the biggest gender pay gap of any UK industry, at 25%. We have known of the under-representation of women in the industry for many years, so it was nothing new, but it seemed to kick start some actions around encouraging and retaining women in the industry.

Working hours that are not compatible with childcare, combined with a culture of presenteeism, can make the industry seem scary for female employees, I get that. Thankfully, a lot of firms are working towards changing that. Staff surveys at Morgan Sindall revealed that salary comes third to flexible working and personal development, regardless of age or gender. In any industry, the desire is to have a healthy, productive workforce and construction is no different. We all want to work somewhere where we feel comfortable, safe and valued, and when we do, that’s where we’ll thrive. There’s no reason why you can’t be a parent and have a successful career in construction. If people can fulfil their responsibilities with flexible working, then why not give it a go? Something as simple as arranging your working day around the school day isn’t going to stop you having a successful day at work. If anything, I think it might make you more productive, by taking the pressure of childcare or missing out on important milestones off your mind you’ll be able to concentrate on the job in hand.

I understand there are still some circumstances where flexible working might not work. There are sometimes where you still need be on site before 8am which is difficult for a working parent, but why not involve the graduates – those who want to learn, want the experience and are more than happy to help out. Have someone there to help you set up, lock up or carry out tasks that cannot be carried out during the typical 9-5. You’re getting the job done, it’s less stress for you and a keen younger worker is getting invaluable experience working with responsibility.

I love to see new ideas that make working women’s life easier which is why I was thrilled to see that you can now buy maternity high-vis clothing. Leo Workwear have released the first stocked maternity garments conforming to high visibility standard ISO 20471. They make life easier, safer and more comfortable for pregnant women at work and it could be the deciding factor in whether a woman stays in the industry or leaves when deciding to start a family. That teamed up with the news that several big contractors are now promoting flexible working to encourage working mums to stay or return to the industry makes me very happy – after all, the industry definitely needs women.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.