Removing Barriers and Normalising Diversity is Everyone’s Business

Removing Barriers and Normalising Diversity is Everyone’s Business

11/03/2022

Let’s get real, International Women’s Day can be a tricky event for workplaces…

We want to get onboard with the celebration but the conversation does not feel very nuanced. And this is a feeling shared by both men and women who are fortunate to work in organisations that embrace excellence in all its forms. Diversity is just another expression of that excellence.   

Tokenism around gender equality is not just unacceptable, it is actively being called out. For example, UK organisations that tweeted in celebration of #IWD2022 this week had their original message re-shared, together with the official gender pay gap of the said organisation. The disparity of pay between the genders at some organisations was truly eye-opening (close to 50 percent). The most shocking element was the blatant, disingenuous and cynical hijacking of an important conversation that we know needs to happen. 

Construction, and to a lesser extent engineering, are both industries that have traditionally attracted more men than women. There were many reasons for this going back over the past century and beyond. Frankly, construction was not considered appealing work for men or women, but it was men who came into the industry. The building site of the past bears little resemblance to a contemporary site; modern methods, tools and technologies have transformed the industry. Yet, diversity – not just gender – remains a challenge when it comes to attracting new talent into the industry. This is changing, but the change is slow and needs to be pushed by everyone, not just the State or representative bodies.  

According to the most recent CIF figures, there are over 14,400 women in the construction industry today, which is the highest level since records began. In fact, one in four construction roles created in 2021 were filled by women, which is a huge step forward. Of course, women still make up less than 10 percent of the overall Irish construction workforce so there is a lot more work to be done to highlight future industry opportunities for everyone. 

Removing any remaining barriers for women in engineering and for women in construction is everyone’s business. 

The Construction Industry Federation, or CIF, hosted a superb event this week, featuring some industry heavy-hitters and it was interesting to hear some of the more practical suggestions made by those with decades of experience, watch back: https://vimeo.com/686769708/7e2a3d9584

Engineers Ireland took a more global perspective on how to remove remaining barriers and this is well worth watching:  https://youtu.be/Cf1E1y7FoKE 

Here at McKeon Group, we do things differently. We don’t just talk about innovation, we innovate. We don’t just talk about diversity, we live it, both on and off site.

So for International Women’s Day 2022, we didn’t want to just talk about breaking the bias, which is the theme of this year’s initiative, we wanted to show the next generation what it looks like to #BreaktheBias.

Members of our team arranged a site visit to one of our live project locations for local children, mainly the children of McKeon Group and Hereworks employees. The site visit took place at the Dublin City University, or DCU, campus in North Dublin where, as it happens, the lead architect, the client PM and many of the site team are women.

This civil and landscaping project is phase II of the ‘Restaurant Square’ public realm project on the iconic DCU campus. The scope of works was set out and explained to our special site visitors, including the importance of social amenities, ICT infrastructure, and features like graded ramp access to the new terrace and connections for water bottle fillers. 

Our enthusiastic visitors were kitted out with hi-vis vests, hard hats (and a goody bag, because everyone deserves a little treat!) and then taken on a tour by the site team. We did not have to point out women on site, the children could plainly see them and hopefully learn that there is nothing unusual about this.

The term ‘role model’ can be a loaded one. The day was not about rolling out some of the many women on our team, but rather, allowing the children to see the interconnectivity of a contemporary building site and the important role each valued team member plays, irrespective of what they look like. The aim was simply to normalise diversity by having our inquisitive site visitors experience this for themselves. To us, that is leading by example. More importantly, it is an accurate representation of what we do every day, not just on International Women’s Day. 

The day was a great success and one we hope to repeat. Huge thanks to Cliona Molloy, Amie Bennett and Veronica Lavelle for arranging this fun and inspiring site visit. 

The message is clear. The next generation of talent is watching us right now and we have to get this right. Our own take-away from the day is that the future of the construction industry is in safe, curious, diverse hands!

About McKeon Group: Established in 1950, this year marks the 70th anniversary of McKeon Group, which remains a family business. ISO certified for more than two decades, McKeon Group offers expert construction, fitout and building services. The Group delivers projects, services and maintenance across a range of sectors for State, local authority, FDI and private clients. For more information, contact https://mckeon.ie 

 

 

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