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Women represent less than 1% of the construction industry workforce working on site: Let’s fix this – Anika Delves, Planner for Wates Construction

Anika Delves - Wates

Anika Delves is a planner for Wates Construction, where her role involves liaising with supply chain partners, as well as tracking the progress of developments to ensure everything runs on time and to budget. She joined Wates through their Production Trainee Scheme in October 2010, and went on to become a section manager before changing career path and progressing to the position of assistant planner. Prior to being recruited by Wates, Anika completed an undergraduate degree at the University of the West of England before studying for her Masters in town planning at Birmingham City University.

Anika Delves - Wates
Anika Delves

“…With women representing only 11% of the construction industry workforce, and less than 1% working on-site**, it is vital that contractors help redress this balance…”

Discovering my love of the built environment

I have had an interest in the built environment since I was a young girl. My dad worked as a landscape architect and I would often accompany him to the various sites to observe the work being carried out. My interest in the sector piqued during my university years, where I became engrained in the study of regeneration and town planning, which led me down the construction route.

I really enjoy the variety in my current role, working both on-site and liaising with clients to best understand their needs. Being a woman on a building site is becoming much more of a norm, with more females joining the sector, which is, in part, thanks to supportive businesses such as Wates.

Women in construction: More to be done

Women in constructionWhilst this is good news for the industry, and despite the increase in numbers, I do believe that more needs to be done by contractors nationwide to inspire more women to consider a role in the sector.

Gone are the days where women would shy away from a career in construction. In fact, it is becoming much more of a norm for females to make up a proportion of the headcount on a building site, a step-change that is very much welcomed by contractors industry-wide.

The Government’s recent Labour Force Survey shows that there has been an 8%* increase in female representation in the sector over the past year, which only goes to further validate the progress that is consistently being made to bring greater gender balance to our building sites. And while the headway we are making is highly encouraging, we mustn’t focus our sights elsewhere and assume the issue is in a state of self-resolve.

In fact, much to the contrary; more needs to be done to support women already working in the industry and to increase business engagement with females to ensure women are sufficiently educated on the rewarding nature of the sector.

Redressing the balance

With women representing only 11% of the construction industry workforce, and less than 1% working on-site**, it is vital that contractors help redress this balance by conducting various initiatives with females to present the diversity of options at their disposal. For example, Wates as a responsible contractor inspires all of its employees to actively engage with females of all ages to increase awareness of the sector and the various responsibilities we hold in our roles.

Over the course of my career, I am proud to have taken part in various activities to inspire the next generation of female construction workers. More recently I presented at a ‘Women in Construction’ event at one of Wates’ completed projects, Ernesford Grange Community Academy in Coventry, where I educated secondary school pupils on the advantages of working in such a dynamic industry.

In addition to this, I have staged mock interviews with girls in Coleshill, Warwickshire to provide valuable work experience, before also taking part in one of Wates’ ‘Business in the Community’ initiatives, which involved me presenting to a group of 11-year-old girls on the opportunities that the sector has to offer.

Responsible contractor

Working for a responsible contractor inspires women to find the best possible success in their careers, and I must say that Wates has supported and encouraged me in my role every step of the way. As a planner for the company, I am both site and office based, which provides me with a broad perspective of the industry. I hope that more contractors will address the issue at-hand and work to bring the greater levels of diversity from which the sector clearly benefits.

*UK Labour Market: August 2016, published by the ONS,

**Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT)