Let’s take a look at the alternative significance of this Wednesday 8th March. Yes, it is the day of the Chancellor’s final Spring Budget here in the UK, but it also marks International Women’s Day around the world.
International Women’s Day started life in the early 1900s. The world was changing, becoming industrialised and whilst this provided terrific opportunity and expansion of industry, it was also a time of great turbulence, with women feeling themselves being left behind.
Speed forward to 2017 and the discussion around, and visibility, of women’s equality has increased dramatically. For many of today’s millennials in more economically developed countries, all they have ever known is greater equality in legislative rights – not just for gender, but for characteristics, like race, religion, sexual orientation etc.
However, we only need to look a little further back to Generation X, who will remember the second-wave feminism fight for gender equality in the 1960s and 70s. The truth is, improving gender equality has happened relatively recently and there is still a way to go, as evidenced by research last year that ranked Britain 11th out of 18 countries, behind the US and France. The research league table took into account pay, board level representation and the gap between male and female employment, among other factors. Women still face challenges compared to men. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the average gender pay gap in the UK at April 2016 was 9.4%, and this figure has changed relatively little over the last six years. At least part of this gap is explained by ‘environmental’ factors, which the Government is seeking to address. For example, the broadening of the right to request flexible working and the introduction of shared parental leave in April 2015.
From my own experience, I have worked in the planning/housebuilding profession for many years, and this particular sector, along with so many others, is still largely male-dominated at the senior levels. A recent NHBC report suggests that women in housebuilding make up just 12% of the workforce, many of these being in a secretarial role. According to the ONS the number of women in skilled positions (roofers, bricklayers and glaziers for example) is so low that it is unmeasurable.
I have spent a number of years building up my career portfolio in town planning, alongside my ‘other job’ as a mum. With the support and opportunities offered by DMH Stallard, I have now progressed to a senior role of Director of Planning. I now assist in the management of a large team – both men and women. I have orchestrated the project management and specialist planning input for a number of residential schemes – from executive homes to large strategic mixed use schemes.
Some of my success stories have involved a number of local, regional and national housebuilders. Many of my clients are male, and sometimes it can still be intimidating going to industry events where women are still very much in the minority. However, I don’t feel that gender is as much of an issue as it once was. I feel very proud that my clients not only respect the work I do for them, but also acknowledge that I am a mum as well, which may mean that a 7.30am breakfast meeting isn’t going to work for me!
Finding strong female role models is essential for breaking the barriers of any male-dominated industry, but it all starts with you. Why not let International Women’s Day mark the beginning of change?