REDD News: Empowerment and Insights, highlights from March's International Women's Day Roundtable Event

March’s roundtable centred around International Women’s Day where we had the pleasure of hosting inspirational women from various property and construction professions with a morning of discussions, networking and breakfast. The morning was hosted by REDD’s Senior Development Manager, Amelia Bardot and Project Manager, Lauren Bennett. 

The roundtable's theme was centred on the topic of women ‘holding things’, inspired by the below spoken word piece by Maira Kalman. 

What do women hold?

The home and the family and the children and the food. 

The friendships.

The work, the work of the world and the work of being human. 

The memories and the troubles and the sorrows and the triumphs and the love. 

Men do as well but not quite in the same way.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly happy or content, I think I can provide sustenance for regions of human beings. 

I can hold the entire world in my arms. 

Other times, I can barely cross the room and I drop my arms frozen. 

There is never an end to holding. 

And certainly, there is often a feeling of never doing enough. 

And then there is the next day and the next day and one holds on. 

The notion of ‘holding’ amongst the women in the room resonated from everyday life tasks to childcare and maternity leave, kickstarting the conversation into equality, ‘mum guilt’ and the gender roles in the construction industry. 

Although many businesses in property and construction are now levelling the playing field when it comes to maternity and paternity leave, there are still many improvements to be made across the sector. The topic of how equalising leave for parents is one of the best ways to help neutralise the gender stereotypes resonated with many women at the table, one member adding ‘the more we encourage men to take a longer paternity leave, the better it is for us’. 

Does mum guilt go hand in hand with office guilt? The table discussed the feeling of having to choose ‘to hold’ your family life vs your office life. With the UK being the third most expensive country in the world for childcare costs, it’s no wonder the effects of working full-time to cover these costs are being felt by parents and children alike. 

On the other hand, many felt as though COVID-19 had opened the eyes of their employers (and the world) to the realities of living and working with children, with many home offices suddenly squeezing in a homeschooling desk and little faces joining important meetings. Has the pandemic helped to open the door to the flexibility needed around work to accommodate a work-life balance with children? Although it was mutually felt that more could be done to accommodate working mothers and parents, there was positivity felt towards the 9 months of fully paid leave being offered by the construction industry from one member's at the table workplace.

An interesting talking point was the notion of ‘condensed hours’ to help aid a family-orientated work-life balance, where women are working longer hours Monday - Thursday, usually cutting short their lunch break, in order to fit in more time around nursery hours and time with their young children. Although some expressed concerns about not being able to be ‘on-site’ and gain the respect of their male counterparts as often as they feel they need to be, others saw this way of working to be a positive step in the right direction. 

Overall, the insightful discussion was enjoyed by all with the group leaving their top business and inspirational book recommendations with the table to take home. Thank you to those who joined us for the morning, we look forward to the next one.