Rachel Preen and Kathryn Adams Directors headshot

This year’s International Women’s Day theme ‘Inspire Inclusivity’ reminds me of a quote by feminist, journalist and activist, Gloria Steinem when she said: “equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” I too am someone who believes in gender equality; socially, economically and politically – so I hope to contribute to the IWD debate with a bit of inspirational thought.

Progress is being made

As a female business leader working in the construction industry, I see first-hand on a daily basis how women face many unique challenges – and opportunities – as employees of such a traditional and large-scale sector. As a typically male-dominated field, I am humbled that, in spite of construction currently having the largest gender imbalance, the sector is gradually becoming a more diverse and inclusive space – right before my eyes, I actually see this shift weekly.

Today 15% of the UK construction workforce is female and approximately 1.8 million men were employed in construction in the UK as of the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with 297,000 women. Yes, the numbers speak volumes – there is still a hefty gender gap, but comfort can be found in the progress that has been made over the last decade. According to ONS data, over the last 10 years, the number of women as a proportion of the overall construction workforce has increased by 36.9%.

Male dominated industries allow women to stand out

I have a particularly optimistic outlook in life – and tend to think of male dominated industries; like construction, engineering and energy – as great opportunities for women to really showcase their skill set and stand out for their different ways of thinking and approach to a given subject or a problem. We are wired differently – it’s scientifically proven – and perhaps this is why I have ended up in these industries. I quite enjoy being the one to bring a fresh perspective to the table and being a bit different. The more women that join these sectors, the more innovative products, methods and processes we will see.

It is no secret that the construction market is facing a workforce shortage. When women make up half the population, there is a huge opportunity to welcome in more women to join. There are vacancies to fill, it is up to industry to suss out how to remove the barriers.

Change happens at home

Regrettably, the construction sector has traditionally struggled to attract, retain and promote women. Clearly there is still much more work to be done to re-address the balance. But as always, change first needs to happen at home. At Prolectric we are acutely aware of the need to focus on building an inclusive and diverse workforce. I am proud of the 50:50 equal representation of males and females on the new Prolectric board, and we celebrate the fact that everyone brings something different to the party. In fact, today Prolectric have an above average representation of females in our workforce – and I bet that having two female senior leaders has helped with that.

I particularly enjoy this bit of advice for women from Sheryl Sandberg, former COO, Facebook, in her best-selling book, ‘Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’: “There is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have. In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”

As we head ever nearer to net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, collectively our aim has to be steadfastly focussed on creating an inclusive workforce that is dedicated to supporting customers with the quest to embrace solar power, reduce costs – and transition away from fossil fuels.

#IWD24 #inspireinclusivity