Carolina Roca. General Managing Partner of a real estate development and construction group, with more than 50 years of experience, active in four Regions in Spain. She is also President of the Association of Real Estate Development Companies of Madrid (ASPRIMA).
QUESTION: How do you see the current situation of women in the construction sector?
ANSWER: Strictly in the construction sector as “on site”, the presence of women is frankly scarce and is almost exclusively limited to construction management positions, technical architect positions or, at the most, some positions as site forewomen. There are very few situations in which you can find a woman executing works and generally it is always more linked to installations than to the execution of structures, foundations or masonry.
QUESTION: And what do you thing is the reason for this?
ANSWER: Historically, the incorporation of women into the world of work has been experienced mainly since the last 50 years, and clearly this incorporation has come about through training. That is to say, as the presence of women in universities and technical faculties has increased, we are seeing how this is permeating the professional world and more women are appearing in professional careers and in technical positions. The problem in the construction sector is that for 15 years we have been affected by the lack of incorporation of both men and women in vocational training, to join the construction site afterwards. There has not been parity in the training of the construction workforce, and this has not been transferred to the situation on the construction site.
QUESTION: What measures do you think should be put in place to achieve a greater incorporation of women in companies in the sector?
ANSWER: The first thing that should be emphasised is training, and carrying out a communication campaign to show that women can be incorporated into the world of construction as well as men. We usually use as an example the great communication campaign that was carried out when the army was professionalised, where they took advantage of the opportunity to explain the possibility of gender parity that existed in a field that was a very masculine one, such as the army. The same must be communicated in the world of construction. Moreover, the construction industry has changed and evolved into a much more industrialised and digitalised world, although there is still a long way to go. But it no longer corresponds to the usual image of what it is like to work on the construction site; we now see on the construction site that industrialisation and digitalisation are being incorporated. And it is no longer a question of physical strength, now it is perfectly possible for a woman or a man to carry out any job in construction, but it is essential to know how to communicate this in order to make the sector attractive, to attract that much-needed workforce. In this communication effort, it must also be made clear that there is no longer a distinction between genders on the construction site.
QUESTION: You have mentioned the importance of training for the incorporation of women in general, for the incorporation of new workers or for updating the training of professionals who are already working in the sector. What role do training centres and trainers have in achieving this objective of attracting more women and more young people to the sector?
ANSWER: The first step is communication, that is not specifically a task to be carried out by the training centres, but by organisations such as the Fundación Laboral de la Construcción (FLC) or the Confederación Nacional de la Construcción (CNC), or even by Asprima, which is also very interested in getting this important bottleneck to start to drain. But after the communication campaign, it is essential that the training centres know how to transmit the reality of what is the execution of works, creating a strategy so that the person who takes the course feels attracted to continue in the sector. And a fundamental aspect of retaining these people who want to be trained is that there should be dual training with a transcendence for that person’s professional future. That is to say, that there should be a connection between the job opportunities that are created after having completed the training in the centre and the construction companies. In Spain, subcontracting of work items of trades that are relevant for the execution of a construction work is widely used. It is therefore essential that these subcontractors, which are not large or professionalised enough to establish employment and training strategies for their employees, receive support from the training centres and the job offers for this training for these small subcontractors, so that, together and through dual training, it is possible to create a strategy and an attractive employment framework for all these workers.
QUESTION: Continuing on the theme of women in the sector, do you see any specific advantages, any particular added value in the incorporation of women in the sector’s activities?
ANSWER: When I say that we are no longer talking about a job that requires physical conditions that make a distinction between men and women, we can’t either make a distinction by thinking that a woman will do a better job than a man. However, I am a firm believer that women, in general, are more stable in jobs and look more for their comfort zone rather than going look for new challenges or new or greater ambitions. In the construction sector one of the things we suffer most is the continuous mobility on the part of workers, or the lack of commitment to start and finish a job; in that sense, I think that women would maintain more stability in their work and more commitment.
QUESTION: What advice would you give to a young woman who is considering starting a career in the construction sector? What would you tell her?
ANSWER: I would say that the construction sector, as it is now, has a brilliant future. For example, in the area of residential construction we are currently under-producing, and to reach a reasonable level of housing production we should double our production. What does this mean? That the construction industry is an environment of growth for employment. However, we are currently in a real bottleneck situation because we are not succeeding in attracting professionals and the current workforce is retiring, but we are also in a scenario in which we should be increasing our production. Therefore, there are few sectors with such a situation of need for labour growth. A serious problem we have had in construction, especially in Spain, has been the cyclical situation of the residential sector: civil works is not so cyclical because it is more determined by public budgets, but residential construction depends entirely on the economic cycle. This has meant that we have gone from producing 700,000 units in a year, which has required the attraction of a large workforce, to producing 35,000 units in a year. Such swings are unattractive for someone who wants to devote his whole life to a business, and be trained to work in it. In this context, what I would say to this young person is that few sectors now have the stability and growth forecast that the construction sector has, in terms of labour requirements, few sectors still have such a strong trajectory of digitalisation ahead of them. And for this we need young people, because it is very difficult to train older workers on site in digitalisation, and only those who already belong to the “digital generations” are capable of handling plans digitally when it comes to carrying out a layout on a construction site, for example. In addition, I would tell women to forget about these long working days, because, frankly, there are few works where it is so easy to keep a good work-family balance, due to the way in which the world of construction and the site is set up today. I say this from my own knowledge because, specifically, we have female construction site managers who have much better conditions regarding work and family life balance than the workers in the offices.
QUESTION: To conclude, do you have any additional comments or views on any of the issues?
ANSWER: I would just like to point out that the path towards industrialisation and digitalisation, and also towards energy efficiency -which perhaps we have not addressed-, must certainly be an attractive one for the incorporation of women. Moreover, it is crucial for productivity and efficiency to ensure that everything works in a coordinated way, monitoring project times. This is where the importance of digitalisation and industrialisation clearly comes into play. In this context, industrialisation should not only be understood as working in an industrial plant rather than in the construction site, I am referring to the industrialisation of processes; there are a large number of jobs in the execution of work that are of great importance in the industrialisation of processes that can be perfectly implemented by women.
- The problem in the construction sector is that for 15 years we have been affected by the lack of incorporation of both men and women in vocational training, to join the construction site afterwards.
- The first thing that should be emphasized is training, and carrying out a communication campaign to show that women can be incorporated into the world of construction as well as men.
- The construction industry has changed and evolved into a much more industrialised and digitalised world.
- It is essential that the training centres know how to transmit the reality of what is the execution of works, creating a strategy so that the person who takes the course feels attracted to continue in the sector.
- Few sectors now have the stability and growth forecast that the construction sector has.
- The path towards industrialisation and digitalisation, and also towards energy efficiency, must certainly be an attractive one for the incorporation of women.