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The Travis Perkins Group HR Director, Carol Kavanagh on launching their Women’s Community to build their ‘workforce with a difference’

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Carol Kavanagh joined the Travis Perkins builders’ merchant and home improvement Group in 2007 and is responsible for all people-related activities at Group level. Carol has over 20 years of experience working in retail and HR, including positions at Home Retail Group and Safeway Food Stores (now Morrisons). Until April 2012, she served as a Non-Executive Director for The Leeds Building Society and currently serves on the advisory board for De Poel Ltd.

Carol Kavanagh
Carol Kavanagh

 “…We already have some great women working for the Group, all of whom are contributing to strong commercial performance, and so the Community aims to create an environment where they and others like them can become a positive force for change…”

Fresh perspectives on diversity at the Travis Perkins Group

At the Travis Perkins Group, diversity means recruiting, promoting and valuing people from different backgrounds and with a wide range of experiences. I am a strong believer in diversity, not only because it brings fresh perspectives and different ways of thinking into business, but also because it allows individuals to learn from one another and improve performance. Inspiring more women to join, and enabling them to thrive, across all levels of our company will help us create a stronger business going forward and grow on a commercial basis.

As part of this push for a more diverse workforce, it is a crucial challenge for us, and any organisation operating in a traditionally male dominated industry, to reach out to women and encourage them to choose careers within the sector.

This drive for diversity is also part of a current Group wide initiative to build a ‘workforce with a difference.’ This initiative is very important to me, and I am pleased that one of the key parts of the programme is the launch of our Women’s Community. 

Women supporting women – success encouraging success

The Women’s Community is designed to promote and facilitate a network for the successful women already working within the Travis Perkins Group, as well as aiming to inspire more women to join and develop fantastic careers within the builders’ merchant, construction and home improvement sectors.

The first Women’s Community event welcomed 170 women from across the Group’s 1,900 branches, stores and distribution operation.

The launch event focused on the women who work in our branches, stores and distribution operations because we know that these environments, across all our brands, are where we find it most difficult to retain and attract women to develop careers. At the Community, we discussed the challenges we need to overcome to draw more women into working in the building and home improvement sectors, as well as hearing from external speakers from Barclays and Ernst & Young, who have successfully launched similar initiatives.

Flexible working and childcare: Men and women tackling the challenges together

Business focused messages such as helping men understand how women think, and flexible working, such as childcare, were also issues that were discussed and advised on. Our aim is to tackle challenges like these together, both men and women alike.

We already have some great women working for the Group, all of whom are contributing to strong commercial performance, and so the Community aims to create an environment where they and others like them can become a positive force for change. Building confidence and enabling women plays a vital part in identifying talent and helping them move up the career ladder.

This and future events will serve as a celebration of women in the workforce and as a thought exchange forum providing networking opportunities and career inspiration. 

Women in building and construction – closing the gender gap

It is not surprising to hear that the building and construction industry has some of the lowest numbers of female workers in any sector of the economy. Although employment rates among women continue to rise and today there are more women in work than ever before (now accounting for just under half of the workforce), this is still very much not the case in the building and construction industry. The latest figures from The Smith Institute* reveal that women only account for 11% of the construction sector.

I think part of the reason women are not attracted to developing careers in building and construction is due to a lack of awareness about the interesting and varied career opportunities available. Historically, the building industry has also always been a male dominated place and this opinion is something that has been difficult to shift. Ultimately, those in the industry need to take up the issue and tackle how to close the gender gap to make it a more equal setting.

I am a strong believer that our industry should take this matter seriously and do something to address this so the sector becomes a more appealing employment choice for women. 

Breaking away from the Catch 22

Unfortunately, there is also a bit of a Catch 22 here, as not only are there low number of women in the industry but they are also discouraged from entering an industry where they are going to be in such a minority. As a result, one of my main aims, both within the Group and outside, is to tackle this perception and help women to pursue and enhance careers in our industry.

The Travis Perkins Group’s Women’s Community is certainly a step in the right direction, and I am proud to be a part of such a worthwhile and important initiative. Encouraging more women to apply for jobs within the sector and retaining them through creating a work environment that nurtures success is the key to building our ‘workforce with a difference’.

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