Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow

Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow

As we enter International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8 March, it is a good reminder to all in the built environment sector that we must do more to strengthen diversity.

Women make up only 16% of the construction workforce. This is a major contributor to our skills crisis, so it is critical we work together to entice more women (and BAME) into the industry.

With all research and economic studies showing that companies that embrace diversity are more successful, this isn’t just good practice, it’s good business.

Diversity is something companies should actively measure and set out to achieve. And this includes on a board level. Yet, we are nowhere near where we should be.

We can and must do more.

As always, sustainability and social justice are heavily intertwined – and we should embrace this year’s theme, which is ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’.

If we choose to represent ourselves as having the most sustainable building material, we should match it with the most sustainable business practices in the construction industry.

“We need to decarbonise and turn around this climate crisis.

The construction, property and timber industries are in desperate need of new thinking, new ideas, new points of view, new priorities, and challenges to the ‘norm’.

Our challenge as an industry is to talk to the next generation, educate, strip away the biases and assumptions about how we work, show how we can be digitally focussed, innovative, sustainable, circular, clean, fast, and efficient.

Now is the time, when a real difference can be made.

I couldn’t think of a better opportunity for young women.”

Kelly Harrison

Associate Director Whitby Wood | Timber Development UK Board Member

“Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow

Isn’t today another reminder for us of all the forms of polarization/separateness that still exist out that is causing suffering on people, no matter where, or who we are.

Suffering has no boundary, but we could work together to try creating more understanding and harmony in all walks of our life, irrespective of our differences”.

Xiao Ma

Sustainability Manager | Timber Development UK

“Since writing about our wonderful diverse staff at the Timber Trade Federation, now Timber Development UK, for ‘international women’s day’ #choosetochallenge gender equality’ in 2021, I have chosen to challenge in favour of gender equality although this has not always been possible and I need to do better.

This year’s theme #BreakTheBias has given me food for thought – how can I use my agency to enable diversity across platforms for good education and knowledge exchange, whilst bringing forward voices that are less heard?

In a global commercial timber industry, what benefits would this bring? Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission spoke recently on why…

“Why diversity? Why women on board? Because all research and economic studies show that companies that embrace diversity are more successful. This is true in business, politics and society as a whole. Still, too often, and especially when looking at top positions, we hear men say that it is not possible to find women with the right profile.

Well, if you are seriously looking for them, you will find them. Whether diversity is reflected in companies and institutions is an active choice.”

The Timber Development UK University Challenge is one of our key programmes and the organisational team has flipped from 33% female in 2021 to 75% female in 2022. This has changed how we operate, communicate and bond – we argue, we challenge each other, we let off steam but ultimately, we do what is best for the competition which aims to educate and break down barriers between the professional silo’s so that we and our future professionals build a better more sustainable future that includes timber.

Our speakers and hosts in the webinar series to inform the TDChallenge22 have been both racially and gender diverse – selected for their knowledge and pioneering nature to impart an understanding of future construction so that the timber and timber products used to design, specify, cost, and deliver the community centre ‘Southside Hereford’ are fit for purpose and perform – ensuring that the Passivhaus standards and RIBA 2030 and LETI targets can be met.

I’m encouraged to see the transition from the old timber associations of TRADA and TTF as they merge into Timber Development UK and new boards and committees are formed.

So if we want as an industry to be sustainable as we head into an uncertain future, we need a diverse range of voices at all levels, with space for those voices to be heard, actively supported and mentored, so that we can succeed in facing our climate and biodiversity challenges honestly, openly and successfully.”

Tabitha Binding

Head of Education and Engagement | Timber Development UK

The #TDChallenge22 team are me, Kirsty, Yogini and Robert – together with our sponsors, supporters and speakers we are transforming the way education and knowledge is transferred.

“Our sustainable future built environment depends not only on the materials we use but the diversity of the people we recruit and inspire to use them.

Working with Timber Development UK to harness and grow future talent through the Timber Development UK Design Competition is one of many means by which Edinburgh Napier University is challenging the wasteful, carbon-intensive, and male-dominated orthodoxy of the construction sector, alongside Construction Innovation scholarships, focusing on those historically excluded from senior industry roles, and the Built Environment Exchange, which transforms the future construction talent pipeline with accelerated training.

It’s not one day – but every day – we deliver better means to see an equal representation of women across the industry.”

Kirsty Connell-Skinner

Sustainable Construction Partnerships Manager | Edinburgh Napier University

Programme Manager | HCI Skills Gateway

“The Mark Farmer Report on the construction industry was entitled to modernise or die, perhaps it should have been diversify or die.

Maybe it’s one and the same thing, to be honest.

For more productive and sustainable outcomes the sector needs to embrace inclusivity, use renewable materials, and harness the best in talent. There are some amazing female leads in construction we just need more – if we are truly going to modernise the sector.”

Professor Robert Hairstans
Director, Centre for Advanced Timber Technology, NMITE

“To be seen matters.

Representation matters; Diverse role models across all levels matter.

Celebrating different perspectives and inspiring others to build better is a core part of the University Design Challenge, which encourages interdisciplinary collaboration. With 75% of the delivery team and 50% of board members female, along with a host of talented women in the sector – The UK Passivhaus community provides a positive example in a male-dominated industry.

We see you, but there is still much to be done to break the bias and the business as usual.”

Yogini Patel

Head of Campaigns & Comms | Passivhaus Trust