At most conferences there is usually the debate about the level of diversity and gender bias across speakers and attendees. BIM Show Live is no different, and I felt it was important to address this issue openly. We have always seen a higher percentage of men working in our sector, however great work is happening out there to encourage more women to enter the industry.
This year 16% of the submissions we received through the call for papers process were from women and 25% of the seminar sessions delivered this year were by women. Never has any consideration been given to gender when selecting a speaker or content subject.
For attendees to the show, whilst only 18% of delegates were women which is disappointing, from a positive perspective, this is still slightly ahead of the overall percentage of women in the construction industry in the UK, which is 13.8%.
The BIM Awards preceded BIM Show Live on the evening of Tuesday 27 February; our awards host, Mark Shayler of Ape, raised the issue of diversity and made an excellent proven point, that the more diverse the business, the more successful they are.
I am not a fan of positive discrimination and would prefer other means of encouraging a more women into the sector and to be involved in conferences and events. For next year’s BIM Show Live we need to work with partners to ensure we get a larger percentage of call for paper submission as well as encouraging more women to attend. This is not an easy task and it will need time and effort. However we are committed to starting the process early to improve next year’s ratios.
The simple fact is, that if we are to achieve a construction industry to be proud of, we need more women to consider a career in the sector.
Campaigns are great to raise profile, however generally these come from within the industry and are limited to how many new people from outside the sector they can attract.
At BIM Show Live we took a slightly different view this year, something we see as a longer term investment. This approach will take time to mature, but we believe will go a long way to addressing not just gender inequality, but the skills gaps overall.
Fundamentally there are not enough young people, and in particular girls, considering a career in construction. With the current perception being negatively portrayed due to the Grenfell disaster and the collapse of Carillion, why would they?
At the BIM Show Live Inspiration Day we invited schools to experience the technology used across our industry and try it out for themselves. Here we had 50% boys and 50% girls. We had 200 students from primary school through to college, where we explained the wide range of careers available to them.
We learned that it was the primary school students who were the easiest to engage with, and this is clearly the time to excite children about their future career choices.
After a brief period of wanting to be a bin-man I decided I wanted to be an architect – sometimes I feel l made the wrong choice!
My reasons were that I was inspired by my grandfather who was a site agent. He was my hero and he encouraged me from a very early age and without this encouragement I would not have known what an architect was.
So as we start to think about BIM Show Live 2019, we will continue to promote and encourage diversity in our seminar sessions and attendees but we will also be proactive to help inspire all young people to consider a career in construction.
Rob Charlton, CEO Space Group and co-founder of BIM Show Live