Putting feet first in attracting women into male-dominated roles
In a bid to challenge stereotypes within the workforce and attract more women into industrial workplaces, UK label, Amblers Safety, is working with a Miss England finalist to develop footwear ergonomically designed for the female workforce. Sophie Lydia Smith doesn’t conform to the stereotypical view of a beauty queen. The 25 year-old who took home the bronze medal at the Miss England beauty pageant held at the Ricoh Arena, is more at home wearing steel work boots than heels.
Over the past two years, Construction Manager, Sophie Lydia Smith, has been working hard to encourage girls and women to embrace subjects and careers that open doors to traditionally male-dominated sectors. According to the Women’s Business Council, women remain much more likely to work in sectors with already high levels of female employment. It found that 23.1% of women work in public administration, health or education, compared with 8.6% of men. By contrast, only 0.9% of women work in construction, (as against 6.1% of men) and only 2.6% of women work in manufacturing (7.1% of men). The Office for National Statistics says that the number of women working as roofers, bricklayers and glaziers is so low that it is unmeasurable.
Many women in construction find working in male orientated environments challenging and often find that personal protective equipment (PPE) does not fit. In a survey of women construction workers carried out by UCATT (The Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians) they found that:
• Fifteen percent of women construction workers said that it was difficult to find personal protective equipment that fit properly.
• Almost three in ten were afraid to complain about poor treatment to their managers.
• More than half (51%) said they were treated worse at work simply because of their gender.
One of the key problems UCATT’s female construction workers report is that everything is too big and it is really difficult to get shoes and other PPE to fit as their sizes are less than the smallest fit made for men.
UCATT’s National Secretary, Brian Rye says, “There is no reason why the construction industry should be any different from other sectors in terms of equality and diversity. Women working in construction have an absolute right to be treated equally to their male colleagues and both unions and employers need to work far harder to ensure that occurs.”
In male dominated industries like construction, where more than 90% of the workers are male, there is currently a “one-size-fits-all” approach to PPE, with many safety footwear brands and companies giving preference to unisex size ranges, and health and safety being opted over appearance.
The new products combine feminine touches with safety features required in PPE industries. Sophie, leading by example, is keen to develop an athletic design built for women who are constantly in motion, who want their footwear built for more than just the job and can transition easily from the jobsite to managerial areas and yet still feel feminine in a male-dominated organisation.
Sophie Lydia Smith, says, “Have you ever noticed that industries lacking in women often involve safety equipment? The shoes are fitted, smart and can be worn in the office as well as on site. The idea is that women shouldn’t have to change their shoes from normal courts to rigger boots every time they have a site visit while often males have a shoe that fits both specifications.”
“I feel this campaign has a positive and important impact on attracting more women to the profession; this is because showing a female in the role in the media demonstrates that it is a career for both sexes. This move ensures men and women are seen as the face of the profession thus inspiring girls to step forward”.
The new designs will be launched internationally to retailers by safety footwear specialists, Footsure Western Ltd at the A+A International Trade Fair held in Dusseldorf, Germany on 27th-30th October at Hall 03, Stand E94. A+A is the largest information and discussion forum for Health and Safety at work in Europe.