COVID-19: Home working could be the start of gender parity in construction
We pick up the pieces of Dr Jenni Barrett’s article on how the effects of COVID-19 could change the make-up of the construction workforce forever.
In the current construction industry there are quite a few barriers that have prevented many women from succeeding in the industry. This is due to the sector’s culture of long hours and presenteeism at work which are not ideal for many women as they tend to adopt the larger share of care roles at home.
COVID-19 has sparked a trend in the industry which has enabled the industry to have a greater online presence and adoption thanks to the rise in remote working which combines nicely with the rise of digital technology within the sector. These gender equity barriers are expected to disappear gradually enabling a more flexible work-life balance in the long-term which is set to be very welcome news for many women in construction.
Construction, in addition to other industries such as mining, have for the most part been very male-dominated sectors, thanks to struggles to support women to enter, progress and thrive in their careers. Just under a fifth of the professional workforce are female and less than one percent in construction trades thanks to poor representation of women in the industry. The sector is also one of the biggest offenders within the UK’s gender pay gap, where women earn just 76p for every pound earned by men.
The University of Central Lancashire, also known as UCLan, has revealed that women’s contributions have been excluded from design and decisions numerous times according to its research into women in construction. Research by UCLan iROWE found that women who took career breaks often had difficulties in returning to work.
Further challenges have been highlighted and identified in relation to gender equity in the construction sector. Wealth, growth, innovation, and risk are historically associated with masculinity. Furthermore, aspirational labour has proved to be more difficult for women who adopt more care responsibilities, which can prevent them from progressing in their careers.
Ths solution: digital transformation
It’s not all doom and gloom for women in construction, though. The construction industry is changing at a rapid pace which is bringing positive changes across the board. Digital improvements are replacing traditional practices and working methods which are boosting diversity and inclusion whilst at the same time, improving work culture for males and females alike.
The industry’s exciting digital future is set to bring the opportunity to change to solve these issues in construction, particularly surrounding the issue of diversity and inclusion. It is important to consider that this cannot happen unless gender equity is recognised and represented when planning and implementing digital strategies. Educational institutions such as Universities also have a major role to play to ensure that this happens, in addition to construction companies and researchers.
Do you think digital transformation has the potential to transform gender equity in the construction industry? Email us at [email protected] and let us know your thoughts.
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XYZ Reality receives £20m to develop Assisted Reality
Founded in 2017, XYZ Reality aims to "revolutionise" the construction sector with its Engineering-Grade Augmented Reality (AR) solution, Holosite.
Designed to enable an on time and on budget delivery of construction projects, by eliminating building errors, HoloSite has been available to select customers through an early access programme and has already been used on projects totalling a value of over £1.5bn in the last year.
With approximately 98% of construction megaprojects facing cost overruns or delays and 7-11% of project costs being spent on correcting errors, XYZ Reality’s purpose-built integrated AR solution directly addresses these issues.
With its safety certified AR hardhat, cloud platform and in-built proprietary software, Holosite accurately positions high fidelity 3D design models on construction sites, enabling teams to build it right, first time. The technology system has been used on complex construction projects including data centres, pharmaceutical facilities and airports.
This funding will be used to accelerate the company’s ambition of transforming projects by preparing for HoloSite’s commercial launch in the USA and continuing investment in strengthening research and development. The company is also growing its London team to include key hires across technology, manufacturing, sales and marketing.
David Mitchell, Founder and CEO of XYZ Reality, said developing its engineering-Grade AR solution helping construction teams identify errors in real-time is just the start.
"The next phase is Assisted Reality, where our spatial computing technology will have the intelligence to automatically detect and report issues in the field. And ultimately, the goal is builders building from holograms. Our vision of developing world changing products aligns with Octopus Ventures’ mission of investing in companies that are powering the next industrial revolution. We look forward to building history.”
The latest round of funding is led by Octopus Ventures, one of the largest and most active venture investors in Europe, known for its commitment of investing in companies and founders that are changing the world. Octopus Ventures has a strong track record, spanning investment in health, fintech, consumer, B2B software, and deep tech. This includes WaveOptics, one of Octopus Ventures’ early investments in Augmented Reality, which was recently acquired by Snap Inc.
Rebecca Hunt, early-stage investor at Octopus Ventures, said: "We’ve always invested in entrepreneurs leading industry change and XYZ is doing just that. It's solving a massive problem that costs the construction industry billions every year, using its Engineering-Grade Augmented Reality solution to spearhead a shift in the sector’s approach. The founding team of David, Umar and Murray have deep domain and technical expertise, which we believe makes XYZ uniquely placed to drive this transformation.”
XYZ Reality also announces a new partnership with Mace, for the construction of a hyper-scale data centre in Europe. With speed to market being particularly essential for mission critical builds, HoloSite’s AR technology will have a significant role in supporting an accurate and time effective build for Mace, which last week appointed Jon McElroy its new Managing Director for International Technology.
Mace Technical Director, Stephen Henley, said: “Mace has built a reputation of redefining the boundaries of ambition, always bringing efficiency, innovation and responsibility to our projects. With the implementation of XYZ’s groundbreaking AR system, we continue to be committed to delivering projects faster, safer and better than ever before.”
Five years ago, Heather Bellini of Goldman Sachs Research expected virtual and augmented reality to become an $80 billion market by 2025.
But according to new research by global tech market advisory firm ABI Research, nearly 28 million augmented and mixed reality smart glasses will ship in 2026, while the total global AR/MR market will surpass $175 billion in the same year.
"Major tech players across hardware, software, and services look familiar in the consumer space, contributing to strong and consistent overall growth," says Eric Abbruzzese, Research Director for ABI Research. "Those big tech names, with active investment and product ranging from already available, to announced, to all-but-announced, are creating a consumer AR market that will be dynamic and welcoming rather than struggling and immature."