CIF Director General Hubert Fitzpatrick on the benefits of an inclusive industry workplace

by | Mar 5, 2024

International Women’s Day is an important event globally and for the construction sector. The day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, while voicing a strong call to action for women’s equality.

The Construction Industry Federation will mark the day with our annual summit on March 7, which will feature female experts across housing, innovation and careers in construction under the banner of this year’s global theme, ‘inspire inclusion’.

The demand for tickets to this event, which sells out each year, is a clear sign of the call for greater diversity conversations in the industry, and more so, a need for action.

We know that the construction sector is overwhelmingly male dominated. So, are we making real progress on women’s equality and representation?

Through the pages of the latest edition of our member’s magazine Construction, all the indicators are that we are moving forward.

The federation is proud to feature highly accomplished experts, including female CEOs, engineers and project teams. We know that their career routes, as a minority in their respective fields, must have had twists, turns and challenges.

It is therefore all the more impressive that these women have risen to the very top in their fields. The most recent CSO Labour Force Survey figures for Quarter Four 2023 note that there were 161,300 persons employed in construction, of which 11,400 were female (seven per cent).

Women and girls have the odds stacked against them when it comes to exploring STEM subjects from a young age. Research from the Higher Education Authority notes that of those entering Higher Education, 43 per cent of men study STEM, compared to only 19 per cent of women.

And we know that in school, boys have greater access to STEM subjects that girls. When it comes to trades, just three per cent of craft apprentices registered in 2023 were female. The construction sector must attract many more female employees.

This is of significant strategic importance to futureproof our businesses and the delivery of capital projects. In CIF’s Quarter One Construction Outlook Survey for 2024, 76 per cent of respondents cited recruiting staff as their biggest concern.

In failing to appeal to women, the sector is excluding 50 per cent of its potential workforce at a time when there is a shortage of talent.

As an industry, it is our responsibility to make our case to women and girls about why they should study construction-related subjects and trades and encourage them to join us.

Our workplaces, whether on site, in factories or in offices, must have balanced supports for women and men. We must build more inclusive workplaces. Encouraging women to enter the industry will depend on us collectively increasing our visibility in society and schools, alongside our engagement with teachers and parents.

We are encouraged by the Government’s new Careers in Construction Action Plan, which incorporates a focus on gender equality and will be accompanied by a national awareness campaign.

Role models are key to opening young women’s minds about the potential a career in one of the many strands of construction can offer.

And when women join us, we must ensure that they have the same opportunities to progress in their careers as men. It’s clear from this edition that there are many brilliant female role models currently working in the industry.

The Construction Industry Federation, as an organisation, has made significant strides in recent years on gender balance, with 50 per cent of our senior management team now female.

We look forward to supporting women across the wider sector as they pursue careers in construction and contribute to building Ireland.

We hope you enjoy our women in construction edition and we wish you a happy International Women’s Day.

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