Female leadership key for employee attraction and retention

7th March 2023

Our research reveals an influx of women are looking to enter the male dominated construction industry, and it could be thanks to increased visibility of women in leadership positions within the sector.


The survey of 1,000 young adults aged 16-24 found that half (49%) of women have considered or are open to working in construction. More broadly, three in five (59%) of women want to work for a company that has more female leaders overall.


What women want from their jobs


The increased female interest in a career in construction follows a trend of young adults re-evaluating their finances and career choices because of the cost-of-living crisis.


As well as seeing female leaders within a business, women want more financial security from their jobs with 50% of women stating that the cost-of-living crisis has made them want to earn more. In contrast, only 39% of men stated cost-of-living as having an impact on their wish to earn more.


In light of IWD 2023’s theme of #EmbraceEquity, employers must adapt to the demands of all. Indeed, three-thirds (61%) of women state they would rather work for a company that focuses on better wellbeing for employees than one paying a higher salary. Similarly, nearly two in five (37%) of women want to work for a company that has LGBTQ+ leaders.


However, barriers such as the perception of the construction industry have historically stopped women from entering construction with 50% of women still believing it to be  a male dominated industry. With only 16% of men seeing it as such, bridging the gap in these perceived stereotypes is crucial in encouraging more women into the sector.


What females in the industry are saying


The findings from our research are echoed by females in long-term, leadership roles at Redrow, as well as those who are just starting their careers with the housebuilder.


Zara Barrow, joined Redrow in 2013 as an assistant site manager and is now Group Construction Director. As part of the management team, Zara is pleased to be inspiring the next generation of women into the industry. Zara said: “I think that girls of school age need to understand that a career in construction is a possibility. The stigma of it being just for men is out of date. There needs to be more education to promote that it doesn’t just mean being a bricklayer or out on site, there are so many opportunities for women to succeed, do well and make a difference to communities.”


Sales Director of Redrow’s North West division, Anna Evans-Kerr has worked with Redrow for 10 years after moving from the car industry. Anna said: “The construction industry is such an exciting one to be in. It’s not just about jobs on site physically building the homes, there’s the land and planning side, technical and commercial, marketing and customer service roles all available. As sales director, I liaise with all departments and really enjoy how varied my job is.


“There are so many options and opportunities and there needs to be more women coming through in a range of roles. The old way of thinking of construction being a man’s world needs to be shifted and this is something parents need to be aware of too so they can encourage their children to follow their dreams and have the knowledge of all the roles available to women too.”


Sonal Haja, content manager at Redrow started as a marketing communications graduate in 2018. Sonal said: “I think it’s really important for businesses to highlight women working in a wide range of roles to inspire the next generation. Before I joined Redrow, I wasn't aware my role existed within the sector, so providing as much knowledge as possible on roles available is definitely a positive.


“My role is so varied, I particularly enjoy creating content for our social channels and website both out on site as well as in our beautiful show homes. No two days are quite the same, particularly in the fast-moving world of social media so it’s really important to stay up to date on all the latest trends.”


Tashai Simms, who is completing a Construction Apprenticeship at Redrow, said, “I am constantly learning and developing new skills, which will be useful throughout my entire life and career. When choosing an apprenticeship, I knew I wanted to take a different path to what women are typically ‘expected’ to take. What really drives me is breaking down barriers, helping women succeed in a male dominated industry and proving people wrong.


“As well as all of these things, a great benefit for me is the fact that we get paid for the work we do during the apprenticeship, alongside studying. That security is really important for me.”


Zarah Durowoju, Graduate Construction Trainee at Redrow, said: “It is so important for women in the industry to champion one another. Through initiatives like the Mentoring Scheme, I have been able to share experiences, gain representation, as well as constant encouragement from my mentor. I believe that mentorship and other forms of support networks are really effective and have been a source of motivation for me during my time at Redrow.”


Barriers women face


Although women are certainly more visible within the industry, a lack of information on apprenticeships and construction careers could be deterring more young women from the industry. The traditional route of higher university education is often prioritised by schools – with two fifths (41%) of women saying they weren’t given enough information about apprenticeships to pursue them and a similar number (44%) not told anything about apprenticeships.


Similarly, 59% were encouraged by their parents to attend university over other alternatives and 55% said their parents don’t know much about apprenticeships. When parents were asked about their knowledge of apprenticeships, 39% said that they were unaware of the benefits of a construction apprenticeship, which is particularly worrying as 37% of women stated that their current education/employment status was influenced by family members.


There are still wider issues to be addressed too, with over two thirds (69%) of Redrow apprentices agreeing that there is a stigma associated with being an apprentice rather than pursuing further or higher education.


Karen Jones, HR Director for Redrow, comments: “Our latest research shows that more women are open to choosing a career in construction –  hopefully turning the tide on construction being such a male dominated industry. At Redrow, we are always looking for ways to make our workplace more inclusive, such as installing new site facilities  and updating PPE. More needs to be done to bridge the knowledge and perception gap of apprenticeships at  school level and we have increased our school outreach over the last year. To show how important this is to us  we have published targets to increase the percentage of women recruited into graduate roles to 40% and the percentage of female employees in senior management roles to 28%, both by 2025.


“Working closely with education providers across the country to share information about the wide range of opportunities available in construction and encourage young people to consider taking up an apprenticeship will be integral to meeting these targets. Especially in the midst of a cost of living crisis, when we know how important job and salary stability is to young women, the ability to earn whilst you learn, and gain valuable skills for life, will make apprenticeships stand out against other options.”