In 1980 it was almost unheard of to find women on a construction site let alone in a management or leadership position and at best appeared confined to either the site canteen, site office or cleaning maintenance duties.  Likewise, it was also rare to find a male under the age of 40 in a site leadership position as they were predominantly undertaking a role as a construction trade operative rising to site foreman if they were ‘in the know’ rather than their ability and aptitude to do the job.

Very little attention from secondary education was focussed on the careers officer discussing any management and leadership opportunities to either gender across any industry sector, let alone in the construction industry, and the traditional third year options for technical drawing, woodwork and metalwork were often confined for the boys and the prospect of home economics and needlework seemed a dull prospect for many girls.

It can safely be said that very little information, advice and guidance was available from the careers officers relating to the construction industry, limited to specific trades such as brickwork and woodwork and even less opportunities for work experience for either gender with insurance continuing to be a huge obstacle for many organisations wanting to give an opportunity to someone under the age of 18.

The construction industry is vast in size and has a multitude of various trade operatives, each with its own skill set requiring both training and craft to fully master.  It also offers the potential to travel abroad in specialist areas of expertise which is potentially a positive selling point to attract new entrants.

Many of the increased specialisms in construction trades have derived from the original crafts such as the Fenestration sector evolving from the traditional carpentry and joinery trades following the diversification of products and the introduction of aluminium and UPVC products being offered to consumers and with it more choice from the traditional wooden frame materials.  In London alone, many of the buildings are of glass structure and this has seen a significant increase in existing fenestration installers and surveyors upskilling their knowledge and skills towards these higher end markets.  Although fenestration is a fast growing section of the construction industry, it is almost unheard of in schools and not promoted as a trade to enter into.  In addition, there is such little data on the women in the industry that it is not recorded as part of national statistics.

In 2014 the Construction industry sector contributed to £103 billion in economic output and therefore remains high on the government agenda for growth.  This however, wasn’t always the case and in 1991-1992 it was enveloped in a recession gripped with high interest rates from the previous economic boom in the 1980’s.

Whilst there is topical news relating the gender pay gaps and glass ceilings, little attention is paid within the construction industry on the impact of gender management and leadership styles and the effect they have on organizational successes and/or failures and likewise the impact this has on the economy.  Much government funding for adult education has shifted from supporting up-skilling and progression in the mid 2000’s towards an increase in new entrants, in particular apprenticeships since 2015.

It is also questionable as to whether there is enough gender balanced data to support the research as there are currently only 13% of women within the industry and according to Sandra L. Fielden et al. in the article ‘Women in construction: the untapped resource’ (2010, Pg. 113) “construction continues to be the most male dominated of all the major industrial groups”.

The research being conducted forms part of a MSc Business & Management Dissertation and will examine whether gender management and leadership styles in the construction industry have changed since the 1980’s and of particular interest, how men and women have found their route into industry.  In addition, how personal management and leadership styles affect the individuals they manage/lead, how they may be perceived within their industry and whether they have needed to adapt or even change behaviour.

The researcher is looking for men and women to take part in either an anonymous and brief research questionnaire or a one-to-one interview of which data findings will be collated and used as part of the overall research study due for submission in August 2018.  Interested parties should contact Joanne Taylor at joannetaylor@fitfortrade.co.uk.

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