gender equality in the construction industry

When it comes to gender equality in the workplace, construction and tech are still lagging behind other industries. For Glider, which provides digital information management platforms to built environment clients, improving this imbalance is crucial to the continued innovation of digital construction and creating a more equitable built environment. 

That’s why Glider is a Gold Sponsor of Women in BIM, the global network for women working in Building Information Modelling (BIM) and digital construction. Women in BIM seeks to support, empower and celebrate female BIM and digital construction professionals through networking events and mentorship schemes amongst other activities. Here, Women in BIM talk to Nick Hutchinson, Glider Managing Director and Co-Founder, about why the construction industry needs a more inclusive workforce.

Nick Hutchinson, Managing Director and Co-Founder, Glider

Why is gender equality such an important mission for the construction industry?

Currently, women make up only 13% of the workforce across the construction industry. Improving this statistic is crucial to our industry and its success. If we do not approach it head on, as an industry we will be left behind, and our work will not be reflective of the society we are working for. We need to increase the number of women to rectify this disparity.

What are some of the common barriers that are currently preventing the industry from being more inclusive?

There is a misconception that construction is purely a hands-on, manual labour-led industry, and typically for generations there has been little encouragement for young women to enter the field. At the same time, we still often assume that women aren’t interested in hands-on work, which isn’t true. These stereotypes are holding us back – particularly at an early educational stage, when young people are considering subjects and industries for their future careers. However, times are changing and the number of women studying STEM subjects such as engineering is on the rise, which will certainly shift the balance towards a more even gender split of the construction workforce. Since I started working in the construction industry in 2004, there has been a huge amount of change in attitudes and working practices, but there is still work to be done.

How can the whole industry work together to be more inclusive?

Our industry needs to communicate better the skill sets that are relevant to construction and the breadth of roles that are available. The skills we require are mathematical, analytical and creative. In addition to this, we seek people who thrive off working in teams and people who are future-thinking. There is vast amount of opportunity for everyone to take part in – from the construction site to the complex digital positions arising in the wake of the ConTech and PropTech booms. Over the last 20 years there has been a huge digital transformation of the construction industry, for example, with the growth of BIM and emergence of Digital Twins. We need new skills, ideas and knowledge to support and capitalise on this shift. As an industry we need to show people the imaginative potential of the built environment and how they can take part.

Why is a diverse workforce key to a successful collaborative working environment?

Collaboration is essential in the construction industry. It is a method and a value, that our whole supply chain and working systems are based upon – on any given project, we must work cohesively and considerately to achieve shared goals. Within this context, equality and inclusion are necessary to ensuring a fluid and healthy working ecosystem, which ultimately reflects upon the resulting built environment. For us at Glider, every person is valued equally, it’s all about the skills, knowledge and proficiency that are brought to the table.

How can an inclusive construction industry have a wider impact on social equality?

If you think about the whole spectrum of the built environment, which includes infrastructure and public realm and not just buildings, most of it is designed for a broad majority of society. If our industry is inclusive to all types of people – genders, backgrounds, ethnicities and nationalities – it means that we can do our job better. For example, I’m proud that our industry offers opportunities to young people who are interested in apprenticeship schemes, and not in taking the traditional university route. As well as expertise, we value many types of lived experiences, and rely on these experiences to help us improve social equality through the built environment too.

One of the projects we are currently working on is the New Museum of London. We provide the Common Data Environment software that manages all information relevant to this huge landmark building project in the heart of central London designed for the public. In terms of gender equality, it is a brilliant example and precedent that many of the project leadership and design team are female. We know that a more inclusive team will have a knock-on effect on the success of the project.

Why does Glider support Women in BIM and its activities?

Women in BIM is a brilliant organisation and platform that is essential to creating a more inclusive construction industry, which Glider is passionate about. We believe in their work, activities and resource building that all contribute to more visible female representation in construction – from getting women in construction on stages at schools and universities to inspire young people, to empowering women to speak at professional events across the world.

As a technology provider in the built environment sector, we are often disappointed by the number of female candidates we see for our job opportunities that are often in tech-related roles, such as software engineering. Though things are changing, we are not seeing an increase in numbers of women applying for jobs, so we believe that the visibility and inspiration that Women in BIM brings is vital to encouraging more women to join and thrive within the construction industry.

As well as being a platform for encouraging more women into digital construction, Women in BIM makes sure its members currently working in the industry are supported throughout their careers through its resources, events and activities. 

Research shows that a number of women are leaving careers in construction after only a few years, so as well as attracting young women, increasing the representation of experienced women in senior construction roles is just as important. 

Women in BIM welcome support from industry leaders such as Glider to help them continue their mission to improve the gender imbalance, nurture talent and foster cultural, ethical and social diversity.