Women in Property’s Building Balance: A Comprehensive Survey on Wellbeing, Careers and the effect of Childcare in the property industry

Helen James

Monday January 8, 2024

Pictured: Helen James, Gleeds

Whilst the cost and availability of childcare is not a new issue and despite the 2023 spring budget improvement, many of us are still concerned particularly in the current economic climate. What is the reality and what overall improvements do we still need to make for everyone to enjoy a greater work-life and family balance?

In the construction and property industry there has been a growing focus on the benefits of wellbeing, inclusion, fairness and diversity because we know:

  • A diverse, fair and inclusive workforce increases productivity, is more creative and innovative and ultimately increases the bottom line.
  • There is a skills shortage in the industry. Construction News reported in January 2023 that the industry has an 8% churn and a 25% increase in recruitment is required across all occupations to meet the 2027 aspirations of the construction industry.

So let’s look at life and career progression. As we all move through life, we take on more responsibility at work and personally, we have more commitments, we have to pay the bills, we have to look after other people - family, children and friends.  We need to have our own hobbies and interests and downtime to be our best selves and all in a world where the construction industry demands a lot. In today’s world there is a lot of to juggle, prioritise and balance. And let’s not forget that everyone is different here.

Starting a family and raising the next generation is tough. Some parents prefer not to return to work but some are faced with needing to work to pay the bills, particularly now with a cost-of-living crisis. And some people want to return to work and progress their career. Both face a challenge of balancing being the best mum, dad, carer and the best professional they can be.

Yet, due to the cost of childcare some parents are having to decide whether they can afford for both parents to work. Others find themselves asking whether they can afford to have children at all. The annual Coram Family and Childcare, Childcare Survey 2023, identified “substantial price rises of 5.6%” at a time where the cost-of-living pressures are pushing people’s purse strings and meaning that “they cannot afford not to work, but childcare costs mean that they also cannot afford to work.”

More so, with people not living near family, people having children later, the pensionable age increasing and people working longer, grandparents or other family members are not always a viable option. Neither are the casual arrangements with friends, family or neighbours since the regulation of childcare provision came in. Today there is a greater reliance on paid professional childcare, and experience suggests that the supply cannot meet the demand. Meaning that the decision of whether to return to work or whether both parents can work is not a decision, the reality is that it is not an option. Locally – I am based in the South West - I am hearing of waiting lists of 24 months. Personally, it took 12 months to add an additional day of childcare to the regular hours. All in all, the current status means that there is not the ability to change within a reasonable timescale and it limits people’s flexibility for working in an industry of changes and deadlines.

Both issues are raised in the Randstad Gender Equality in the Workplace 2022 Report, where the high childcare costs and lack of flexible working arrangements were some of the reasons for women leaving the construction industry.

Going back to my earlier points; retaining talented people makes business sense. As an industry we have to look at what we can do to retain these talented people. How can we find a balance?

Women in Property South West, in partnership with the national organisation, Gleeds and Buro Happold are launching Building Balance, a Comprehensive Survey on Wellbeing, Careers and the effect of childcare in the industry to find out the true picture of the affordability and availability of childcare. Is this just an issue in the south west or is it a national issue? Although as a construction and property industry we cannot resolve childcare issues; we can:

  • Raise the awareness of the significance of the issues and the impact this is having on businesses and the industry.
  • Encourage businesses within our own sector to do their best to improve the situation.

Secondly, what can we do to support people returning to work; and improve working people and career progression with a young family. These improvements are not isolated to people with families, life is complicated and if we can improve how and the way in which we retain our talented people we can create diverse and inclusive cultures that ultimately increase the bottom line and contribute to a thriving construction and property industry. Only with your input right now can we raise this issue and improve the industry. 

The Building Balance survey goes live on 11th January 2024 at 08.00. We are asking you to:

  1. Complete the survey
  2. Share this blog and the survey on your social platforms 

The findings of the survey will be presented at a Women in Property Building Balance Panel Discussion Event in the spring. This will be hosted in Bristol and available virtually for a national audience. The key points and issues from the survey and the discussion will be presented in a paper.

This is your industry; you can help to shape and improve it for the next generations. 





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