Would you be willing to join an industry where often you would be the only one representing your gender in the room? Is that a career that you feel you could sustain?
These are some of the critical questions we need to be asking when it comes to hiring and retention strategies. The construction and engineering industries have traditionally been a space dominated by men. According to Engineers Australia only 12% per cent of qualified engineers are women and recent ABS data tells a similar story, with women making up only 12 per cent of participation in construction overall. Although the talent pool of women is increasing, the growth rate of women in these industries still isn’t strong enough to encourage the true diversity balance that is needed. Companies can overcome this by enacting systemic changes to the industry’s ways of working to help attract and retain female talent.
Attracting female talent to male-dominated industries
Some people in Human Resources are adamant that we shouldn’t be hiring purely for diversity factors. However, to excel as a business in any industry, diversity is crucial to bring new insights and ideas to the table. Research by McKinsey & Company shows that gender-diverse companies are more likely to have above-average profitability. Representation is pivotal to building a balanced business and is important to incorporate into recruitment strategies, especially in historically gendered roles such as construction and engineering. To create long term systemic change a business must be kept accountable. Having targets for representation or diversity quotas is a brilliant way to actively drive representation and business success. At Nearmap we are bolstering our gender splits by introducing more female consultants to work with our executive team.
Additionally, with so many industries and jobs impacted during COVID, the construction and engineering industry is luckily in a position of growth. This provides a great opportunity to expand the parameters when sourcing talent. We can achieve this by thinking outside the box when it comes to traditionally sought-after skills. Nearmap does this by looking at transferable skills such as leadership, emotional intelligence, and problem-solving against what is essential and what can be trained. This can increase the diversity in talent pools and encourage more women to start a career in construction and engineering.
Retention remains a challenge
Once we have attracted women into the industry, retention is key. Creating practices around flexible working is one strategy to encourage female retention. The silver lining of the past 18 months is the rapid transformation in how people view agile working. Nearmap has always supported a flexible working environment.
Policies are also just as important as practices when it comes to retaining female employees. At Nearmap for example, we have recently reviewed our parental leave policies. We have always offered global paid maternity leave and now have opened this wider to primary carers leave. This allows us to provide an opportunity for equal share of parental roles, giving new mums the chance to stay in the workforce if they chose. Businesses can look at internal policies with a gender lens consistently to ensure they are providing needed support.
At Nearmap our underlying gender statistics are trending well. We also have 40 per cent female representation at Board level. One-third of our senior leaders – VP and Director level and above – are female. Women at Nearmap have longer tenure, are more likely to be promoted and are more engaged with their roles. But we are still not where we need to be in terms of female representation, and diversity more broadly. Recently we committed to undertaking a diversity and inclusion review to help us to continue to identify and solve any roadblocks for attracting more diverse talent.
Overall, we all have an important role to play in building up women within the construction and engineering industry. It’s critical that we’re always looking at new ways to attract and retain gender diverse talent, so that we can help to enable a more inclusive future for these industries.
About Simone Shugg
Simone is Chief People Officer at Nearmap, a location intelligence company with operations in Australia, New Zealand, the USA, and Canada. The company provides organisations with easy, instant access to high resolution aerial imagery, city-scale 3D content, artificial intelligence data sets, and geospatial tools.