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Language on trial at Inspire Me Bristol

The barriers to gender diversity presented by language was the theme of Construction News’ Inspire Me workshop in Bristol this week.

More than 100 delegates heard from an executive coach, Susan Room, on how to present themselves more effectively, and took part in a workshop to examine gender bias in job description. Inspire Me partner Willmott Dixon invited its chief people office Rick Lee to discuss how to improve gender balance, and there was also a panel on dealing with innapropriate language in the workplace.

Bam Construct HR director Andrea Singh led a session on the language of job descriptions, which featured an interactive critique of a description for a mechanical engineer position.

“This is about the first interaction,” Ms Singh said. “We need to be removing the barriers; aggressive language switches you off, we need to have more balanced job adverts.”

Attendees told the event that they would be examining their firm’s job descriptions as a result of the issues raised in the workshop.

“My landscape opened up,” one attendee told the event, adding that his “perspective isn’t where it should be”.

The attendee revealed he had not picked up on the potentially alienating language in the exercise to the same extent as his female counterparts, which had come as a shock.

Another attendee from the finishing sector said they would reassess the language of their job descriptions and more generally on their website to encourage more women to choose the specialism.

Mr Lee told the event that the skills crisis the industry was facing was being “intensified” by a lack of diversity.

“We have to get serious about tackling a situation where less than 13 per cent of the industry are women,” he said. “There are more women in mining and utilities than construction.”

Mr Lee reaffirmed Willmott Dixon’s commitment to achieve gender parity by 2030 and told the audience that men needed to act as “agents of change” to make a difference.

“You must treat people as human beings and not human resources”, he concluded.

Panelists were later asked how women can convince their bosses that better diversity makes business sense.

Mr Lee pointed to a bid team winning a recent Willmott Dixon deal in part due to being gender balanced, which reflected the makeup of the client’s panel, while CGL chairman Nick Langdon pointed to better staff retention as an example of the benefits.

Panelists Deborah Walker and Lizzie Featherstone spoke about womens’ networks within businesses and that using the word ‘women’ in the title can lead to men either not engaging with the subject, or in one case asking ’where is the men’s network?’

A fully-booked Inspire Me mentoring breakfast takes place at The Savoy in London on 20 March, but there are still places available for our Leeds workshop on 6 June, which will examine confidence, quotas and unconscious bias.

To join the debate, follow @CNInspireMe on Twitter or use the hashtag #CNInspireMe on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Inspire Me Bristol

09.35 – Inspirational keynote: Using your voice effectively - Susan Room, professional voice and executive coach

09:55 – Masterclass: Creating a gender-neutral job description (led by Andrea Singh, director of HR, BAM Construct)

10:30 – Case study: How to improve gender balance and diversity in the work place - Rick Lee, chief people officer, Willmott Dixon

10:50 – Panel discussion: Dealing with inappropriate language: 

  • Andrea Singh, director of HR, BAMConstruct
  • Nick Langdon, chairman, CGL
  • Lizzie Featherstone, head of business information tools, Taylor Woodrow
  • Deborah Walker, Western region lead, Women in Nuclear/ MIT support officer,EDF Energy

Inspire Me’s headline partner is Willmott Dixon. Its supporters are DRS Bond Management, Imtech, National Access and Scaffolding Confederation and Trad.

Want to support Inspire Me and work with women to seek and achieve leadership roles in the construction industry? Get in touch now.

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