Millions of UK workers are employed in the trade sector, but it has historically faced serious challenges when it comes to diversity. Of the 2.5 million workers in the haulage industry, for example, a mere 1% identify as female, while data from the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership shows that only 17% of utilities sector employees are female, falling to 1% when considering the craft-level workforce.
Regardless of the age, gender, race, disability, religion or sexual orientation of an individual, UK law demands that they must be given equal opportunities to thrive in the workplace. However, these statistics show that the trade sector is still dominated by white men, despite improvements made over recent years.
Organizations in these sectors must consider the barriers that prevent people from underrepresented groups from applying for roles. In this article, I will discuss the benefits of diversity and inclusion within the trade sector and the steps companies and HR professionals can take to lead this effort.
What Challenges Can Diversity Help to Address?
Businesses have a legal requirement to avoid discrimination in their hiring practices. However, meeting this obligation is by no means the only reason to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
The trade sector is facing an ageing workforce and a shortage of qualified HGV drivers, and diversity and inclusion in hiring can offer solutions to both of these problems. By appealing to younger candidates from different backgrounds, employers can attract new talent into the industry and diversify their workforces at the same time.
Hiring people from diverse backgrounds also brings a variety of perspectives into the workforce, enabling teams to generate new ideas, approach problems in new ways and find better solutions.
If organizations within the trade sector aim to improve their diversity efforts, they will need to be proactive. This means not only developing diversity and inclusion policies to guide hiring decisions but also reviewing existing hiring processes to ensure they reflect these principles.
What Barriers Prevent Diversification in the Trade Sector?
There are a number of cultural and structural barriers that keep candidates from diverse backgrounds from succeeding in this sector, from a lack of visible role models within the sector to unconscious biases in the hiring process.
One example of the latter is male-coded language, which is often used in job listings. Even when roles are advertised as being open to anyone, descriptions can skew towards men in a way that discourages women from applying. We will explain this in more detail later, as it is one of the simplest changes to make.
Additionally, many industries now use algorithms to check CVs and applications to save time during the first stage of the hiring process, but in many cases, these algorithms contain unintentional biases that disproportionately rule out non-white, non-male candidates.
Similar biases can also be exhibited by people in the industry who may have been conditioned to think that a lack of diversity in the trade sector is inevitable and therefore fail to recognize the achievements of female and non-white colleagues. This is one of the most serious problems that companies must make an effort to address.
How Can Businesses in the Trade Sector Be Proactive in Diversifying Their Workforces?
Thankfully, there are steps that businesses can take to improve the diversity of their workforces and provide equal opportunities to every candidate to ensure that the best person is hired for the job.
One of the easiest changes is to review and amend the language and tone of voice used in job listings. Research by Totaljobs shows that words like “competitive” and “confident” skew UK job descriptions towards men, while “support,” “committed” and “dependable” skew female. Taking care with the language used in job advertisements, including how roles are described, is a vital way to encourage more applications.
Finally, organizations can make the biggest difference by creating a working environment that supports employees from diverse backgrounds. Providing appropriate support and welfare benefits and creating an environment in which all people are able to thrive has been successful for Lanes Group, and we are certain that other businesses could benefit from a similar approach.