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Celebrating inspirational women in the construction sector

How to create an environment that welcomes and retains women for a more inclusive industry.

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Inspirational women in STEM and construction

Roni Savage is founder and CEO of Jomas Associates, an engineering and environmental business founded at the tail end of a recession in 2009 to serve the construction industry. Alongside her business role she is also campaigning, with our support, for gender balance in the sector.

Her Inspirational women in STEM and construction initiative identifies female business owners in these industries to act as role models to future generations. Role models can encourage girls to think about different career paths, noting that up to £250bn of new value could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as UK men.

At a recent celebration at the House of Lords to announce this year’s shortlist of Inspirational businesswomen in STEM and construction, women from across the sectors gathered to talk about building a pipeline of female talent.

Roni is excited about her campaign, which is also supported by Amazon and the Federation of Small Businesses, because of the opportunity it brings to the next generation of women. “Everybody should have the opportunity to explore any career that interests them if they’re suitably talented to do so,” says Roni.

Laura Capper, our Head of Construction and Manufacturing, says: “Empowering women in STEM and construction isn’t just about breaking gender barriers; it’s about strengthening the foundation of progress. By embracing diversity and inclusivity, we unlock a wealth of talent, creativity, and innovation that boosts the economy and propels the industry forward.

To be fit for the future, businesses will require diversified and skilled workforces to meet the demands of doing more with less, in an ever-competitive market.”

We caught up with Roni after the House of Lords event to find out what comes next for her campaign. Read on for her insights and tips for how women and men in the construction and STEM sectors can work together to help attract the best talent.

What works well to inspire girls and women into the construction sector?

“The most important thing is visibility. When I started my career, there was nobody who looked like me ahead of me. Do not under-estimate the importance of being able to see people who look like you that you can aspire to become.

That was one of the reasons why I created the inspirational businesswomen in STEM and construction campaign, to identify those women and showcase them to the next generation that might be thinking there isn’t a seat at the table for them. There are a lot of stereotypes around women working in male-dominated environments. We want to show there are opportunities, that it is possible to succeed.

What are the benefits of harnessing diverse talent?

We also know from research that diverse businesses perform better. Diversity of thought, with different ideas across the table, enables a business to do its best and outperform competitors.

If we look at construction specifically, we've got approximately 40,000 vacancies at the present time, and less than a third of the workforce is female. If we're struggling with skills shortages, it’s a common-sense approach to try and attract women into the sector.

Rather than seeing this as a problem, we should start changing mindsets and see it as a solution to some of the challenges in our sector.

Why is it important to have male allies?

Male allies are incredibly important. If around 70% of the workforce in the sector is male, and the predominance of people who are making decisions are male, then the only way we can really make change happen is to have those decision-makers as part of the conversation. We'll never move the dial if we continue to preach to the converted.

What is the construction sector doing well?

We have seen some progress but not enough. We need more women in leadership roles, which enables you to hear the voice and the lived experiences of people in the decision-making room.

We're doing a lot of work around this in industry. We need to go into more schools and showcase our industry as relevant, interesting, and attractive to young girls in schools. We need to change mindsets and we need to squash some of those stereotypes that are around about construction being a male dominated industry.

What insights can you give on how to move the agenda forward?

We all have to be intentional about making this change happen in both small and large businesses. This cannot be something we are still talking about in 10 years’ time. Education is key, understanding the opportunities and challenges and how we can move the dial, listening to the lived experiences of others. We must be intentional about decision-making and advocating for open and fair opportunity. It will benefit us all.

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