Why we support the Inspire Me campaign

Rick Willmott on why we are headline partner for CN's campaign for women to seek and be given the chance to obtain leadership roles in this industry

We know our industry is facing up to a skills shortage. It is a crisis that has been relevant for the last five years.

Construction News' Inspire Me campaign, where Willmott Dixon is the lead partner

But the impending prospect of Brexit, the improving economic fortunes of our European neighbours, the ageing profile of our skilled trades and the industry’s lack of diversity are building up to a perfect storm.

Every organisation should have a strategy that provides it with the best protection against these risks and should focus on those matters where it has the strongest influence.

Our future growth is reliant on attracting, retaining and developing the very best talent and for us, that means properly addressing the gender gap.

We have to get serious about tackling a situation where barely more than 10 per cent of people working in construction are women.

This representation is even worse in senior roles, for example around five percent of executive board members among the top 30 contractors are women.


But our industry is making progress. More women are now being appointed to senior roles and becoming fantastic role models for these and future generations.

We are winning the battle to encourage more women to enter the industry and we are reaching out to millennials - I was delighted that 38 per cent of Willmott Dixon’s 2017 management trainee intake - our future leaders - were women.

However, we’re still missing out on a huge pool of untapped talent, and Inspire Me is a brilliant way to galvanise our industry like never before to embrace the leadership diversity challenge.

This won’t be easy. Large contractors will have to leave their comfort zone as they develop new ideas to make construction a dynamic and agile workplace that attracts and retains more women.

Like partnering in the 1990s, sustainable development in the 2000s, and more recently social value, the construction industry has a strong track-record for embracing change to move forward, once there is a concerted effort to do so.

Creating a more diverse workforce is the next change we need. It’s important to customers and our own people alike, and a strategic priority for Willmott Dixon.

Important timing

That’s why we jumped at the chance to be headline partner for CN’s newest campaign. We want to play our role driving this forward with other like-minded organisations. We can’t do it individually, it needs to be joined up and I’m pleased to see others answering the call to support Inspire Me.

It will provide a platform for some of the many talented women enjoying rewarding careers in construction to share their experiences and inspire others to literally ‘go for it’ in reaching their potential.

By 2030, thanks to campaigns like Inspire Me, I think we should aim to have parity in the gender of people entering construction.

It may be a tough ask, but this change has to happen and it will.

Rick Willmott is group chief executive at Willmott Dixon