Much has been made in recent months and years about the severe skills shortage facing our industry and wider construction. Much has also been made about the massive gender gap in the window and door industry. UK fenestration is still heavily male dominant in pretty much all aspects of the sector.
This gap was highlighted even further to me when I did my annual review of DGB at the start of this year. I looked at the gender split of readers for the first time from the data Google Analytics provided me with. It’s not even close.
You can find the full review of DGB in 2017 compared to the year previous by going here: http://www.doubleglazingblogger.com/2018/01/review-dgb-in-2017-vs-2016/
If you scroll down to the infographic and find the gender split, you’ll see that male readers accounted for just over 70% of readers in 2017, compared with just under 30% female readers. The mass majority of traffic to DGB is industry related according to a readers survey that is ongoing, so it’s safe to say that these stats are accurate.
Thing is, this is only a small snapshot of the industry as a whole. I know that in specific areas of our sector it’s pretty much all male dominated. Areas like installation, surveying, fabrication, transport etc are all dominated by men. Yet at the same time, in areas like installation, surveying and fabrication we are drastically short of talent. Would it not make sense to start trying to attract the other half of the population to fill those gaps?
To date, I have not seen a single woman fitting windows and doors, on the shop floor of a fabricator or in areas of surveying and transport. I’m not sure why. These are all jobs women could do perfectly well. So long as the quality is there, as with anyone in any job, that’s the most important thing. But our industry, as many other trades, has been massively male dominated since the dawn of time. However, as we are now seeing, we have hit a ceiling. Window firms can’t grow as there isn’t enough skilled workers out there. The education system is only now geared towards getting kids into University. It makes total sense to me for the industry to tap the untapped area that is female skilled talent.
It probably isn’t going to happen though.
Age old barriers
Exhibitions are a good place to take the temperature of the industry and take stock of where we are. The last UK one was FIT Show 2017. I often tend to take a step back at these things and observe interactions, conversations and try to gauge what’s what. What I found was that the role of women in the industry still seems sadly rooted in office-based jobs and marketing positions.
I fear it will be a very long time before we start seeing the march of women in areas like installation and fabrication. I see nothing that the industry is doing to promote itself as a positive place to work within the sector. There is still rampant sexism, age old attitudes and a generally lethargic approach to evolution and change. Conditions that are certainly not going to start attracting female skilled talent.
There are two things to think about here: diversity and the skills shortage. Whether you believe in it or not, our industry needs much more diversity in all areas. Re-balancing the male/female imbalance will help bring different perspectives and skills which would no doubt improve the industry as a whole. Second, we NEED people. Our industry is steadily crumbling in on itself as it struggles to increase the work load with less and less people. Until cloning is perfected and becomes legal, we have to look to attract female skilled workers. This isn’t a choice. We have to do it.
Looking at our industry as it is, I can guarantee that this isn’t going to happen. There are still far too many archaic attitudes, old fashioned dinosaurs that occupy positions of influence that won’t be tuned in to the same issues. I have seen enough shop floors and industry events over the past couple of years to know that it’s not going to happen. I’m not sure what approach the industry could take to help make the sector a more welcoming, open place. Our industry inherently doesn’t like change, whether it’s for better or worse. But if we don’t do something quickly to try and relieve some of the pressure we’re under because of the skills shortage, we can expect to see companies closing their doors and even more people leaving the sector.
That sounds dramatic, but that’s a real possibility. I have already spoken with others who are struggling to grow because of the pressures lack of skilled workers bring. Even at our place, it’s all hands on all decks to help make everything work, not because we’re quiet, but because we’re too busy and there’s not enough of us to help reduce the work load.
All comments and thoughts on this are welcome as always via the comments section below.
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