What is your response to the fact there were no women in this year's CMYA final?
Bridget Bartlett, deputy chief executive CIOB and chair, CIC Diversity Panel
We are very disappointed that there were no women this year. The CMYA is our vehicle for celebrating excellence, so we ask construction firms to look across their companies, we say “we want you to enter your very best people” so this is an opportunity for them to showcase their diversity. The only criteria are that the project managers should be site-based and their buildings should have been completed in that year. So our awards are very open to everyone, and there is a very broad range of categories, down to small residential projects – there is no barrier in the way we have structured this competition.
Of course we’ve had women entrants and finalists in the past [except in 2010 and 2011, which were also all male] and with two silver medallists in 2013 we thought things were moving in the right direction. We do know that CMYA is a vehicle that enables people to feel motivated and encouraged, and that if people win awards they become role models for others, so it’s doubly disappointing that women aren’t coming through.
We feel we have a process that encourages everyone to apply, and we have female judges, but we do need to work harder with the employers and our training partners to make CMYA more attractive to the women who are out there managing projects.
Natacha Redon MCIOB, assistant project manager, Turner & Townsend
A low number of women finalists is to be expected due to only 10% of the construction industry being female, including in fields such as design or quantity surveying.
But the complete absence of female nominations, however, is reflected through flaws in both genders: women are perfectionists and self-critical, they therefore tend to brag less about their abilities and therefore push less for recognition than men, who tend to be less precise and also display more confidence. I have to remind myself regularly that I should be pushing harder for promotions or awards because I already am as good, if not better, than the rest standing in line.
On the other hand, women tend to have to prove themselves constantly in the workplace, and there is never the assumption on a man’s part that they can do a job well because they have the right qualifications and experience.
Theresa Mohammed, deputy chair, National Association of Women in Construction London and South East committee
While there are large numbers of women at graduate and middle management level the same cannot be said for the more senior positions, which will reduce the probability of women being in charge of key projects and therefore being nominated for any associated awards.
But if clients were given the opportunity to put forward an entire team of people on a project the results of the CMYA might be very different and more balanced. Also, as a general point in the sector, I have noticed that it is difficult to obtain nominations in the first place as we are often unwilling to promote our achievements in construction and actively avoid competing for awards.
Following on from that, as these results do not reflect the female presence in the industry, there is a clear signal for us all to participate so that the future awards reflect the fantastic achievements of construction in the UK.
Fred Garner, sector director for rail, Taylor Woodrow
I recently set up the Women in Taylor Woodrow event and to me this is symptomatic of the lack of women in relevant roles, itself a by-product of the lack of women in the industry. It could also be that there is a natural reticence for women to put themselves forward for awards, a result of gender conditioning and stereotyping from their early development and careers. It’s a shame, because I know there are some great candidates out there.
The Taylor Woodrow event showed that effective mentoring and support is important to boost confidence. It is clear that unlocking the potential and talent of women already in the industry, and attracting new entrants from an early age, is essential to meet the skills needs of the future. Recognising and publicising women’s achievements has a major role to play in that challenge.
Chrissi McCarthy MCIOB, Constructing Equality
For me, it’s all about women’s lack of opportunity to enter the roles that might give them a chance of winning the CMYA. It’s not about gender discrimination in the more widely recognised sense, it is more symptomatic of “protective paternalism”, whereby men don’t want women to fail, so they give them smaller jobs they think they will be better at.
For example, when I was a site manager I remember being asked to take charge of painting because my bosses were worried about giving me groundworks, and how the subcontractors would react to working with a woman and vice versa, even though I had gone through five years work in setting out engineering!
There are many other issues related to a lack of appreciation for soft skills in favour of masculine aggression, and women having to prove they are capable of doing a job every time they start a new project.
What is important for me is: what are we going to do about it? I remember having this same conversation about five years ago when we had just one woman finalist. So far the answer seems to be we “just wait and it will get better”.
Lucynda Jensen, project manager, Morgan Sindall
I’m not surprised by the lack of female finalists, it’s really a matter of logic – very few women enter construction in the first place and of those that do, very few actually end up rising through the ranks to lead projects in a site manager or project manager role.
It is not about gender inequality, or a lack of opportunity, it is more about a lack of female interest in the construction profession. On my project management degree course there were 35 people, only two of whom were women. However, the tide appears to be changing. There has been a bigger drive to get women into construction and more are currently doing construction courses, so over the next five to 10 years I would expect to see some of them being nominated and becoming finalists at the CMYA.