International Women’s Day marks an important date in the calendar for businesses around the globe. A day of celebration of women’s achievements and advocation for greater equality, Stacey Lucas Commercial and Marketing Director at Sontay explains why it is important to recognise this special annual event.

I have been working in the construction industry for what seems a lifetime and although statistics may show otherwise, its gender imbalance is slowly but surely making progress. We all know that the industry is very male-dominated, you only need to look at a recent government survey which showed 13% of the workforce was female in construction. Looking back over 10 years or so however, and myself and a few peers would be the only few women at an event in a room out of around 250 people. In these situations, the disparity was quite stark, and it was difficult not to notice the imbalance.

Despite the push for women in construction I feel that it is much more important to instead not see the differences between men and women in construction – we want to be treated the same as men and given identical opportunities. I would love to see a time where we don’t have to celebrate International Women’s Day as our merits and achievements are praised in the same way that men’s successes are. We should all be seen for the qualities and values that we can bring to any part of life.  One cannot succeed without the other so let’s work together to achieve great things.

I have been on external courses where I have been told I may struggle with the content only to get the highest scores. How, then, are we unequal? I have often been asked to refer to somebody technical to answer a client question when they will only give the same answer as I have. I don’t believe there is any hurtful intention in any of this – it is just an unconscious response.

Much of this was over 10 years ago, and since that time I have risen through the ranks here at Sontay. It’s safe to say I get my tenacity and influence from the strong women in my family who have achieved so much in their lives against adversity!  My 92-year-old Nan is still as sharp as a tack and a strong guidance to me now. When I go to awards ceremonies now the balance is better; women are coming into the industry and are working as engineers instead of admin roles which is fantastic to see. 

This mixture of men and women is essential to a healthy, balanced workplace. Here at Sontay around 42% of our staff are women, that is nearly half of the workforce. This blend really makes for a positive, egalitarian work environment where everyone feels as if their voice matters.

Female representation at board level however, is an area we need to focus on and champion, particularly as so many transformative decisions are made at this level. In 2013, reports emerged that only 13% of board members were women. These figures were produced from gender statistics across 399 corporate boards. Six years later this percentage rose to 22%, which although small, is a good sign of change.

At Sontay, we take pride in knowing that 33% of our board are women. I was the first female to join the board in 2012 and was closely followed by Lorna our finance director. Female representation at executive level is something we should be seeing more of as time progresses because there are so many benefits to reap. As an anecdote to that, apparently all 169 companies in the FTSE 350 with at least one woman on their executive board saw a higher return on capital than companies with none. Imagine what could happen with four women on the board, I wonder!

Construction is becoming more and more diverse each day. New technologies are being pioneered, which is creating huge opportunities in terms of work for all. It is why there has never been a better time to be a woman in construction than right now. We just need to take this faith and aim for a more inclusive sector that champions all ages and abilities no matter what their gender.