I recently took part in the CIBSE Build2Perform Conference, where I was part of a panel discussion on integrity within the industry. My short presentation focused on how we need to attract more young talent to our industry, but we are not doing a very good job so far!
This led me to look back on an article I wrote last year on a similar topic, which I have reproduced below. Unfortunately, it seems little has changed in the last 12 months. We need to step up to this challenge – I will continue to push on with this through the work I do through a number of forums – but it also needs support from others to make real change.
I recently took part in the European Women in Construction and Engineering Forum and won the MEP category. Apart from feeling very honoured, I was also encouraged to see so many women now involved in the construction industry. Unfortunately, there are still too few UK based female building services engineers, with our European neighbours having a much greater percentage within the industry.
So why is this and what can we do to encourage more women to be active within our industry?
Changing perceptions is key.
Building services engineering is not widely known outside our industry, unlike other engineering disciplines, and it is not helped by the fact that much of what we do is tucked away from public view.
If people do not know about it, how can we attract new and diverse talent – male or female?
CIBSE is excellent at communicating to members and hosting regional events to an ‘internal’ audience, which is a great way to raise awareness of the institution within our industry. We need to share this – we need to do more to raise our profile to a wider audience as only then will we, as a profession, gain the recognition we all deserve.
Before we can do that, however, we need to get our own house in order. I know of many women who have left the industry due to negative attitudes within our own clan. Lack of flexibility in working practices and out of date attitudes to women in the workplace are not only detrimental to attracting more women into our industry but also are barriers for attracting new talent in general. Today’s young people expect agile working, flexible hours and open minds – practices that should now be the norm across our industry if we want to maintain and grow our sector.
We need to get the message out to all emerging talent that not only is our industry a scientific one, but also a creative one, where we work closely with architects and designers to create great spaces.
Why does this matter anyhow?
Apart from the obvious ethical issues, it also matters to industry, because having a diverse workforce is good for business. Diversity involves bringing people together from different backgrounds, whether that be gender, race, culture, orientation. Different backgrounds generally mean different viewpoints, different ways of thinking, different approaches. Quite simply, having a diverse team gives that team a depth and breadth of experience and thinking that might just give your business the edge. Having the same people, all thinking the same way, with the same solutions is not only dull but is in danger of leaving our profession in the slow lane.
Hardly inspiring to the next generation of construction professionals.