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An Inclusive Future

01 Mar 2021

To celebrate Scottish Apprenticeship Week, we are spotlighting members of the Future Leaders' Forum: a group of future leaders for the built environment. 

Hear Emily Carr, Architect, Design Manager and vice-chair of the forum, discuss inclusivity and why now is the time to look for opportunities within the built environment.

Why should people of all backgrounds look for opportunities involved in the built environment?

To set the scene - In 2011, it was estimated that one in every five UK-born construction workers were aged over 55 meaning that by 2021, they would be close to retirement age. It was also predicted that 300,000 new homes were required each year and more than a million extra workers were required by 2020.  As a result, it is estimated that in the next 10 years over 170,000 workers in the construction industry are expected to retire. And with women only making up 14% of the industry's workforce - with less than 2% of women onsite and only 1% in the trades - there is a well-identified, dire need to promote women and indeed people of all backgrounds to improve diversity & inclusion across this ageing sector, in the bid to address the age and skills gap.

Together with ever increasing, ambitious ‘Climate Crisis’ targets and fluctuating Covid-19 restrictions, NOW is also the time to look for opportunities within the sector to contribute to this much-needed systemic change by bringing in different skills sets and different ways of working - all to create a more sustainable environment.

 

What has your personal career been like? What was your experience with inclusivity in the built environment?

As an Architect/Design Manager working onsite and an advocate for promoting women in construction, I am passionate about creating places that both reflect today’s society and current values, preserving and celebrating the heritage of the building’s context, while also embracing new technologies to create a more sustainable environment for future generations.

Whilst studying and working, I have been fortunate enough to work on a number of high-end residential and conservational developments (including Mayfair House, Size Group Ltd)  while my desire to empower marginalised voices and help others enabled me to work on the restoration of a UNESCO world heritage site in Nepal (Changu Narayan) as well as be part of a team setting up a Women’s committee for a collaborative community rebuild project for the charity architecture sans frontiers (ASF-UK) all following the 2015 earthquakes.

In February 2020, I was awarded a Fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) to carry out research in Sweden, identifying ongoing initiatives aiming to promote women in the construction industry. Now on hold due to the pandemic, I have been writing a blog documenting a different type of ‘real-time’ data (in light of the Government’s Recovery Plan) collating an anthology of personal accounts of the barriers and gateways faced ‘pre’; ‘during’ and ‘post’ lockdown(s) with focus on ‘lessons learnt from Lockdown’ and recommendations for the ‘new’ future.

As a Design Manager based predominantly onsite, I am not only part of the 14% of women in the industry, but also part of the 2% and often have been the only female manager. As daunting as it can be and has been in the past, I believe that by identifying existing role models who are embracing a ‘greater diversity of thought’ as part of their organisation’s revenue tools, more light can shed on this systemic problem, encouraging others to do the same and collectively we can ‘become the change we seek’.

 

Why is inclusivity now important for the built environment?

The construction industry is currently facing the greatest threat to its survival since the 2008 financial crisis. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdown restrictions have exacerbated existing challenges, forcing everyone to review previously used working methods and the old fashioned, male-dominated workplace environment. 

Prior to Covid-19, it was well identified that women were and still are under-represented across the built environment with women only making up 14% of today’s workforce. Gender pay gaps and restricted career progressions has led to many talented young people abandoning or not even entering the industry - leaving the sector out of date and slow to adjust with the times.

Together with the ever approaching Climate Crisis targets to reach net-zero carbon emissions, the industry has the perfect opportunity to establish more cost-effective and efficient ways of working and transform its image to become more sustainable, creating a more desirable working environment for ALL.

Covid can become the catalyst this sector needs to transform the stereotypes this sector has - and to encourage the current and next generations to become part of it.

Because it is not enough to just build back better. We need to build back equal.

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