The Gender Agenda

Friday 7th June 2019, for most of us, was no different to any other Friday. However, for 552 women it marked the start of the 8th Women’s World Cup. An event that was founded a mere 28 years ago and yet in that time we’ve seen a dramatic increase in both the teams taking part and the quality on display. Although always a topic for debate, there can be no question that the introduction of the women’s game has helped to grow the game of football and increase it’s reach across the globe to include more people, which helps develop the standard for everyone. Allowing for a better game and a greater following. Although, football isn’t the only place where women have changed things for the better!

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. Now, I’d like to look at the similarities the women’s game shares with the world I and most of my connections work in, construction! At the same time, the women’s World Cup has developed and progressed and almost linear path can be drawn alongside the Construction industry and the female presence within 30 years ago, there was a different attitude towards women in construction and not one held purely by men, but by women as well. It wasn’t considered an industry that women worked in or dare I say it had a place in, much like the game of football itself.

In 1991 the average attendance at the Women’s World Cup was 19,615 and despite a drop when they took the 1995 world cup to Sweden each tournament has seen a steady increase with the 2015 World Cup averaging 26,029. The current world cup is set to blow these figures away, with FIFA themselves confidently stating they expect over 1 million tickets to be sold throughout the tournament. This highlights how far the women’s game has come in such a short period of time. In 1991 it was thought that females made up roughly 2% of the construction workforce, a figure that has increased to about 11/12% in 2018, according to various reports. There are a few reasons this growth has occurred but 3 key reasons the presence of women has grown considerably in both arenas. These 3 key reasons have helped to increase the presence of women in construction (and football) to where it is now, and the same 3 key reasons will be required in order for this trend to continue. What are these 3 key reasons I hear you ask? They are, education, funding and opportunities.

Education is pivotal, the importance of educating young children that football isn’t just for boys, girls can play as well. Adults who may be leaving college or university may never have considered the variety of career paths the construction industry can provide. There are fortunately companies and organisations now going out visiting colleges and universities presenting opportunities to graduates and actively encouraging a stronger female presence within construction. Why stop there? Why wait until college or university? Just like the beautiful game itself, the younger kids are introduced to something whether its football or construction, the easier it becomes to break down the stigmas and stereotypes, whilst allowing for the development of a greater and more specific skill set (practice makes perfect, perfect practice makes champions).

Funding, yes okay so there is the need to throw some money at the situation. Unfortunately, this is a necessity because of the lack of activity that has preceded us for so many years. Much like the women’s football scene, it’s no surprise that the USA also has what is considered to be the best women’s team in the world. Having won more Women’s World Cups than any other nation, it is widely respected that the USA Football (“Soccer”, if any Americans are reading) Federation has invested more money than any other across the world. This investment begins at grassroots level, they want to educate young girls about football to show them it is a sport for everyone, facilities are in place to help attract, educate and promote that girls are welcome in the world of football, importantly it helps to harness and develop skills at a younger age meaning individuals are given a chance to reach their potential. The same principle again applies to women in construction, the funding that companies are now putting into education is huge in comparison to what was taking place 30 years ago. Women of all ages now have the chance to learn about construction are welcomed into and encouraged to follow career paths that before they did not know existed or never had presented to them before.  

Lastly, opportunities, like anything in life opportunities are vital in ensuring success. Football offers scholarships to up and coming players to train with their club and hopefully, they’ll develop in the stars of tomorrow. Construction now has a wide range of opportunities for people, whether it be opportunities for women coming out of school and taking part in an apprenticeships, leaving university on a graduate scheme or somebody who is leaving the construction industry directly but taking the opportunity to enter the classroom and train those minds, “and hands”, of tomorrow. The more opportunities that can be presented to women at a variety of different ages or levels will naturally increase the interest of women in construction and eventually the participation of women in construction. These opportunities have not always been so transparent and for many years it’s been pretty obvious that some opportunities were not so easily attained by women as they were by men. This is true in many industries, unfortunately, but surely and positively this trend is being bucked. With many companies in construction reducing the gender pay gap, looking to introduce more female board members and taking in a higher number of female graduates, the signs are extremely positive, and all lead the way for a more diverse and productive industry with greater equality.