Are women put off from applying for jobs in male dominant industries?

Jan 4, 2019


By Esmée Hardwick-Slack

Campaigners at the gender equality charity Cwarae Teg say large companies in male-dominated industries such as water, rail and construction have become more increasingly aware that asking for specific experience in that sector reduces the number of female candidates for that role.

One of the UK’s youngest female CEOs, Severn Trent Chief executive Liv Garfield, has said some women are not applying for certain roles because the application included a list of “must have” skills. Severn Trent has 87,000 water customers across mid and north Wales under its Hafren Dyfrdwy brand.

 The firm “blind marks” CVs which removes all applicants’ names, race and sex as Ms Garfield believes adverts should focus on asking for skills gained from a variety of sectors and activities outside work to attract a more diverse range of candidates – rather than those that fit a specific list of skills.

“Often lots of women don’t have the confidence to think ‘do I match all of those boxes?’. If they don’t match all the boxes, they immediately, almost, don’t apply – they cross themselves off the list.”

With 50% of Severn Trent’s customers being female, Ms Garfield said it was vital there were more female role models in traditionally male-dominates sectors.

These comments were echoed by Jane Simpson – who became the UKs first female chief engineer of railways in 2015. “I do believe that what you see is what you can be”. When Ms Simpson worked with National Rail  the firm changed its website and adverts to attract more women and young people to their roles, she said: “If you see a female engineer with children…you are more likely to join that organisation and be that woman.”

In the UK, sectors where only a small proportion of jobs held by women include construction (14%), transportation & storage (22%) and manufacturing (24%). Whilst the common sectors of employment for women are health and social work (accounting for 20% of all jobs held by women), the wholesale and retail trade (14%) and education (12%).

A study conducted by NatWest last year also revealed that only 12% of women say they want to start their own business. The study shows that the vast majority of females say that they are discouraged from starting their own business due to the fear of failure and a lack of inspiring role models in business.

Cwarae Teg has been working with companies, particularly in construction, to help promote greater diversity in the workplace. Helen Antoniazz from the charity said: “Very often they realise they’ve got a problem but they don’t understand why because they don’t feel they’ve ever done anything to put women off”.

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