Published On: Wed, Feb 14th, 2024

Closing the gender gap in the fenestration sector

Victoria Brocklesby  explains how employers in the fenestration sector can foster a company culture that supports inclusivity and diversity

Since co-founding Origin, the UK’s leading manufacturer of aluminium windows and doors, in 2002, Victoria Brocklesby has dedicated over two decades to building an industry-leading business that champions equal opportunities in a traditionally male-dominated industry. A strong advocate for women in fenestration, she uses her experience and platform to support and encourage more women into the industry at all levels.

Here, she explains how employers in the fenestration sector can foster a company culture that supports inclusivity and diversity.

Women make up just 11% of the construction workforce in the UK. This figure includes many who work behind a desk, often in secretarial, management, or design roles. On building sites, only 1% of the workforce are women. This needs to change. 

So, how do businesses and employers promote diversity and inclusivity in a sector clouded by historic negative statistics and stereotypes?

Breaking barriers and creating a level playing field

To cultivate inclusivity and diversity within the fenestration sector, employers should first concentrate on shaping their internal company culture, as it significantly influences how a company is perceived more widely. Establishing a supportive and welcoming company culture begins with the commitment to equality and is propelled by the growth of the business and the strategic hiring of individuals who align with the right values. Collaborating with people who share these values is crucial to avoid perpetuating stereotypes and the potential creation of barriers hindering women’s entry into the fenestration sector.

I started Origin with a commitment to constructing a company culture that values individuals for their contributions rather than their gender. Since the beginning, we have maintained a zero-tolerance policy against discrimination in any form within the company. Equal opportunities have been extended to all employees across various roles within the business, regardless of their identity. This, combined with a focus on shared values, has enabled us to circumvent many challenges associated with gender stereotypes. Roles traditionally dominated by men, including those on the factory floor, have successfully embraced women, resulting in an enhanced working environment and the introduction of new skills, perspectives, and diverse thinking.

Visibility and perception play pivotal roles in debunking these historic labels. Witnessing individuals who ‘look like us’ in specific roles provides reassurance and encouragement, fostering a belief in achievability. Therefore, the presence of women in prominent roles across all departments is essential.

At Origin, women occupy significant roles in every department, spanning sales, marketing, customer service, transportation, data analysis, and production. Our Operational Board of Directors boasts several female members, and women hold positions at every level, from Heads of Departments to Directors, Executives, and Assistants. 

By prioritising individuals with the right attitude, we have established and nurtured a culture of diversity and inclusion. My advice to other employers in the fenestration sector is straightforward: emulate this approach. Emphasise the importance of company culture and invest in effectively communicating your core values throughout the organisation, no matter your size. While skills can be taught, culture is more fundamental.

Your company culture significantly influences how your company is perceived. A business that fosters a discouraging attitude and views employees merely as workers tasked with producing output will struggle to attract the right personalities or retain talented people. Creating a positive company culture that consistently supports its employees and regards all individuals as equal will inherently be appealing to top talent, who share the same views.

Employing women in a traditionally male-dominated industry opens doors to untapped talent and diverse perspectives from the factory floor to board meetings. 

Final thoughts

While there’s plenty that needs to be done, there are some companies out there that want to make a real change for the future. I am optimistic that women aspiring to join the industry in the future won’t be deterred by outdated perceptions that the wider construction industry is exclusively for men, and that the industry can level out the playing field for good.

Not only does all this work help close the gender gap, but a more inclusive work culture will also help encourage other minorities to join the industry too.