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Climbing up to the next level

Women are still under represented in senior positions and this is exacerbating construction’s skills shortage. By Dianah Worman

The construction industry is traditionally male orientated. While the National Association of Women in Construction says the number of women in the industry is growing, there are still gender-related barriers - women account for less than 10 per cent of the workforce.

To attract the best people, employers have to open their doors to women. And it is not just a case of being prepared to recruit women, it is changing in order to attract them.

Female managers tend to be appointed to different types of positions than men. They are more likely to hold support roles in personnel, training or marketing, rather than performing operating or commercial functions.

There is also a higher proportion of women in service sectors such as retailing compared to more industrial sectors such as manufacturing.

Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Women are like tea bags, the longer you leave them in hot water, the stronger they become.”

This describes many career women - there has been an increase in women crashing through the glass ceiling. But it is not often an easy journey for them and women are still poorly represented.

Due to the limited opportunities, many women are forced to take the more difficult jobs in organisations with a history of poor performance.

This perpetuates the myth that women are poor in senior positions, and covers up the true extent of discrimination.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development did some research with Exeter University which identified the ‘glass cliff’. Women bosses are being set up to fail because they only land top jobs with firms which are in trouble. When women do land themselves a leadership position, it is often in a company with falling share prices and collapsing profits.

Businesses need to improve the way they recruit, develop and retain talent. At a time when the industry is suffering a skills shortage, women represent a potentially vast and untapped source.

Tips for those facing a glass cliff

  1. Be aware of how the business is doing so that you can make an informed decision.

  2. Don’t be a martyr. If a task or project is problematic, make sure that relevant others know.

  3. Delegate work where possible.

  4. Women can end up facing the glass cliff if they are not part of a company’s important networks.

  5. Having someone who can offer advice and who may have ‘inside information’ can be valuable.

Dianah Worman is diversity adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development