There is an wealth of evidence demonstrating that creating a diverse workforce offers huge benefits, from boosting team performance and generating more innovative ideas to increasing revenue. The construction industry has sadly lagged behind other sectors in recognising and leveraging these benefits, missing out the many opportunities that embracing diversity can provide.
With many of construction’s old hands reaching the point of retirement and a notable dearth of new talent entering the usual pool of candidates, taking up more gender diverse recruitment practices is a sure-fire way to tap into invaluable resources and skills. Diverse people bring forth diverse talents, which could not only help to plug the skills shortage but broaden our industry’s capabilities. Drawing on the skills, experiences and knowledge of people from more varied backgrounds generates different perspectives and outlooks, increasing creativity and improving problem solving. As one of the ever present challenges within the construction industry is catering to clients and end-users with a disparate set of needs – what better way to do this effectively than by having a workforce that can relate to, and therefore help meet, those varied requirements?
We spoke to Pam Mulliner, Head of HR here at Kingspan Insulated Panels, about her experiences and views on the benefits of improving the gender balance in our industry.
Pam Mulliner – Head of HR
What was your career path into your current role and what inspired you to go for it?
My career has been varied. I left school when I was 16 and worked as a packer on an extrusion machine. I did that for two years before I was made redundant. I then went back to college on a secretarial course whilst working at the Little Chef. It was also during this time I studied A level Law at night school. When I left college, I began working as an administrator in the NHS.
I had no aspirations to be in HR and, like lots of people, fell into it. I realised how much I enjoyed HR administration when I was working for a paper convertor/printing company and asked to cover someone’s maternity leave over 25 years ago. From there I began to study for the CIPD qualifications and support the Personnel Manager as and when I could. Over time, I moved into the role of Personnel Officer and then never looked back! Taking the opportunities as they are presented to you is important – you have to take the initiative and show what you are capable of.
How has the position of women changed within construction over your time?
There are more women in construction now. For example, within the Kingspan Group we now have two female MDs and an Ops Director. This is great to see, but there is still more work to be done.
Children form views very early on and the encouragement of STEM subjects needs to take place at primary school. Secondary school is likely to be too little, too late. There is no quick fix – I wish I had the answer! At Kingspan, we take positive steps to ensure our recruitment materials are appropriately targeted, we highlight role models and celebrate the achievements of women in our industry and have a zero-tolerance approach to any form of discrimination.
What advantages would gender equality bring to the industry?
The industry needs to modernise its macho image. Gender equality would help to level this– not to mention improve productivity and creativity!
What advice would you give to a woman looking to start a career in your industry?
Nothing different to the advice I would give to a woman looking to start work in any industry: just see the opportunity there, and develop and use your emotional intelligence – this is what will give you the edge and make you stand out.
Who inspires you?
Sarah Breedlove. She grew up in Louisiana in the 1800s, the first child of 6 to be born into freedom, was orphaned at age 7. She started work as a domestic servant at age of 10. When she died at aged 52, she was considered the wealthiest African American businesswoman and wealthiest self-made businesswoman in America.