Be Bold For Change – Women In Roofing Conference 2017

By Sarah Spink, director at the LRWA;

“According to statistics revealed at the recent Women In Roofing (WiR) Conference (10 March 2017), just 11% of women in the UK work in the construction industry, and less than 1% of these work in manual trade*.

“Yes, the construction sector – especially roofing – experiences a lack of diversity in its workforce, but that doesn’t mean the opportunities aren’t out there.

“The annual WiR conference, which was held at the Radisson Blu hotel, East Midlands Airport, saw women (and men) from various practices in the roofing industry – from architecture and design, manufacturing and technical roles, to ladies working on-site laying roofs! Led by Livia Williams, co-founder of WiR and head of training at the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC), the conference kicked-off with a panel discussion on the ‘people’ in our industry – how can we get more women into roofing and what changes need to be made to make this happen?

“The roofing sector can be an extremely lucrative career, as I know myself, working in the industry for more than a decade! Women can offer a lot to the roofing trade but they don’t have to be sat on the roof itself to prove it. What is often forgotten is the diversity of jobs within roofing that are available, away from manual labour. Job roles from product development on the manufacturing side, technical roles, research and development as well as sales can all offer fantastic progression opportunities, as well as job satisfaction.

“As an industry, we lack effective communication with schools of the benefits of working in roofing. A more targeted and streamlined approach towards young people could make all the difference if we are to meet expected construction output growth of more than 20% by 2019, meaning 200,000 skilled workers will be needed in the UK**.

“The conclusion of this panel discussion, and of the day, was that ‘we’ – the industry – needs to be bold to make any sort of change; a change in the perception of what a career in roofing can bring; a change in the statistics and increase the worryingly low number of women in roofing; and a change in the improvement of communication to young people.

“As an association, the LRWA and other trade organisations such as the NFRC, must encourage the catalyst for change by working together to create a shift in our industry to help build the workforce of tomorrow – which will include women, and men, working together.”

*A presentation led by Maureen Douglas, Group HR Director at Forster Group Ltd, claimed 11% of women work in construction in the UK, and less than 1% of women work in manual construction trade

**Figures from The CITB estimates that 224,000 construction workers will be needed in the next five years to meet expected output growth of more than 20 per cent by 2019