If we want more women in housing, we’ve got to understand flexibility

Government statistics estimate women account for just 12.8% of the construction industry’s workforce.

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When there is a desperate need to recruit hundreds of thousands of new workers in the next five years, something has got to change.

And yet, while the wider industry is struggling to attract more women, the nature of social housing means that, on average, we probably have more women than men working in our sector.

Sadly, that’s not to say that traditional stereotypes don’t still exist. The gender pay gap, plus a general lack of information, continues to hold women back from embarking on highly rewarding careers.

However, I believe flexible working is still one of the biggest barriers to entry.

I’m responsible for housing policy within Radian and alongside that I have an operational role managing our Leasehold and Commercial department, plus I also have responsibility for customer services.

As a result, I have a good vantage point to consider the gender balance of the organisation.

I’m pleased to say women are very well represented at middle and senior management level, but, like many other industries, it is breaking through to the executive or board level that is the hard part.

I don’t necessarily advocate positive discrimination simply to have more women within a business, but female perspectives are crucial to success, whether that’s on the ground or in the boardroom.

We all bring completely different skills to the table and senior-level women make organisations more responsive.

If we really want to see a better gender balance in the housing and construction industries we have to reconsider what “flexible working” means.

While some jobs have to be dictated by certain hours, other industries are embracing so many innovative new working patterns for their employees.

If you’ve had a family and you’re coming back to work it’s incredibly hard to juggle everything and deliver the pieces of work needed.

It’s important to offer women in these situations the opportunity to work really flexibly – that should not just mean working from home, but a choice of hours that suit them, which are often later in the day.

Radian’s very own flexible working procedure does just that, offering staff the opportunity to request changes to their working patterns that can support their own personal needs.

Many staff within Radian are also able to benefit from flexitime, another fantastic way of working hours that can support commitments they may have outside of work.

In our sector I believe this would be welcomed by residents, as customers do not always want to be contacted between 9am-5pm.

As a result, adopting a more flexible approach with employees could also reap many benefits for residents.

The entire industry, to its credit, is making strides forward in this regard, but until we can offer better flexibility I think we’ll continue to struggle to address the balance.

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