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CN launches 'Inspire Me' campaign

As well as being home secretary in 2012, prime minister Theresa May held the minister for women and equality brief.

Often compared to Britain’s first female prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the then home secretary was ambitious and went on to fulfil her aim of becoming the UK’s second female PM in 2016.

It was in 2012, years before she would move into Number 10, that she established the Women’s Business Council, a government-backed initiative led by the business community with the aim to maximise women’s contribution to economic growth (see box).

At the time, a report revealed that the percentage of women on FTSE100 boards had increased from 12.5 per cent in 2011 to 15.6 per cent in 2012.

Despite being nearly six years ago, if you were to apply that calculation to the boards of construction companies, it is unlikely you would even reach 15 per cent.

In 2014, CN reported that the percentage of women working in the industry was just 12 per cent and there were only 21 women on the boards of the top 20 UK contractors.

By 2017, women formed 12.8 per cent of the construction workforce, but there were fewer women on the boards of the top 20 than there had been three years before.

When the Women’s Business Council approached CN in February 2017 to explore what we could do to tackle this, it wasn’t hard to see why we should get involved.

Having investigated the lack of gender diversity in construction leadership roles over many years, it is right that CN now does its bit to champion and lead change.

The result? Inspire Me.

The aim of the campaign is clear and follows the Women’s Business Council’s own stated aims (see box): CN is campaigning for women to seek and be given the chance to obtain leadership roles in this industry.

We will host events to inspire and equip women with the tools to become leaders in this industry. We will produce a special issue and digital report in March to coincide with International Women’s Day, a documentary on women as leaders in construction, and much more content throughout the year.

Inspire Me partners

CN is proud to have the support of companies from across the construction sector as we embark on the Inspire Me campaign.

Willmott Dixon is a headline partner, and has a representative on the Women’s Business Council. CEO Rick Willmott today writes for CN on why the organisation is committed to tackling gender diversity.

Our supporters are Mabey Group, NASC, Randstad and Trad Group – all of whom will work with Inspire Me to enable positive change within their own organisations and across the construction sector.

Inspire Me supporters

Inspire Me supporters

We are still seeking partners for this campaign as we look to grow and continue Inspire Me in 2019.

If you wish to be a partner or learn more about Inspire Me, contact CN editor Tom Fitzpatrick on 020 3953 2748 or by emailing, or contact CN’s head of sales, Perry James, on 020 3953 2906 or by emailing

Inspire Me ambassadors will speak at our four events (see box), and bring their personal experiences and expertise to the debate.

There are brilliant men running brilliant companies in this sector, supported by men and women in a wide variety of roles.

But recent events including Carillion’s collapse have shown that there needs to be a greater emphasis on doing things better in this industry and positive change is required from the boardroom to building sites.

To that end, businesses need diverse leadership. The construction community needs to demonstrate a commitment to a better future, embracing different views and personalities.

In McKinsey’s Delivering through diversity report this month, its research of 1,000 companies in 12 countries found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21 per cent more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. This was an increase of six percentage points on its research in 2014. 

Inspire Me events

Construction News will hold four events this year to promote Inspire Me.

On Thursday 1 March we will have our first regional breakfast event in London: Leadership knows no gender

Landsec head of development (London) and Inspire Me ambassador Beth West will deliver a keynote speech on women as leaders in construction and property.

The event will break into roundtable discussions, from which questions will be put to a panel including Mabey Group CEO and Inspire Me ambassador Juliette Stacey, and Willmott Dixon ReThinking director and Julia Barrett, who is also the firm’s gender diversity steering group chair.

The event take place at the Sofitel London St James from 8am to 10am and is free to attend, but there are limited places available. To apply for a place at the event, please email

Our second event takes place in Manchester in June, followed by a third event in Birmingham in September / October.

Finally, CN will hold a half-day Inspire Me workshop at the 2018 CN Summit. This will feature inspirational speakers and practical ways for women to advance their careers.

There is thus a clear business case for bringing more women in as decision-makers and leaders in this industry.

Change is coming and that means greater diversity among leaders at all levels, from projects to the boardroom. Construction will require different people from different industries, bringing new and challenging ideas.

Though only around 13 per cent of this industry is made up of women, as construction becomes a more mature, digitised and productive sector, this should hopefully, consistently improve.

There is a great deal of excellent work being done to encourage women to consider a career in construction.

Inspire Me is a campaign not primarily aimed at encouraging women to seek new careers in construction, though we hope this will be one benefit of focusing on gender diversity.

Inspire Me aims to show women that construction can be a long-term career choice and to demonstrate that women are, can and should be leaders. This industry must finally embrace gender diversity. It can’t come a minute too soon.

Women’s Business Council aims to:

  • Accelerate the pace of change so that barriers for women in the workplace are systematically removed and best practice is emphatically endorsed.
  • Increase and support the executive pipeline by encouraging women and girls at all ages and stages.
  • Enable women to be able to make informed choices about where and how they work, in sectors and companies that nurture their talent
  • Harness the experience and talent of women by demonstrating the tangible benefits to business and best practice examples.
  • Promote equality through a conversation that includes, embraces and celebrates male leaders who are champions for change.



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