dBx Acoustics

Why Are There Fewer Women In Construction Than There Were 10 Years Ago?  

We hear a lot about how to attract more women into construction, and I’ve already ranted at length about how difficult that will be when the industry is dominated by middle aged white men who all buy their suits from the same shop.

I’m shocked by today’s labour force statistics from the ONS, however, which show that the number of women working in the construction industry has actually FALLEN 16% in the past 10 years. This can’t be blamed on the recession’s effect on the industry, as the number of men has fallen by only 4.2% in the same period.

What’s going on? Why is only 11.7% of the construction workforce female?

I don’t have any answers as to why women have left the industry in greater numbers than men, but I have researched a few ideas that I had…

Maybe unemployment is higher?

I did a check on the 2006 and 2016 unemployment rates. The level in 2006/2007 pre-recession was very similar to now overall but of course there was a huge spike between 2009 and 2014. The female unemployment rate is similar at 5% between 2006 and 2016, so it’s not that women found it harder to find employment post recession than men did.

This raises another question…did women in construction suffer more from the recession than men did?

Unfortunately I couldn’t turn up any data on this. I’ll keep looking, and would be grateful for any references readers can send me. What I did find was the latest (2013) publication from the ONS on Women in the Labour Market.

This notes that women with children are less likely to work than those without. Okay. Perhaps when we didn’t have jobs, we went and had babies instead?

Source: ONS

Let’s check out those birth rates…

Here, I think we might just have figured it out. Look at this;

Data from IndexMundi

From 2010, the birth rate climbs much higher than at any time in the recent past. Is this because of the recession? I’ll leave that to cleverer minds — but it seems likely.

Now that the recession baby-boom seems to be ending, it’ll be interesting to see whether the number of women in construction rises again over the next 5 years, as women return to work. My prediction is that it will, but not as quickly as you might think.

Come back, baby…

There are still huge barriers for women wishing to return to work in construction and related disciplines. 30% of women leave their jobs each year due to poor maternity rights. The last DTI statistics I could find on the subject (2003) showed that 15% of construction employers gave female workers more than 18 weeks statutory leave, compared with a national average of 27%. Twenty-eight per cent of the sector operated “keep in touch” or retraining schemes, compared with an average of 59%.


What’s the takeaway from this? Well, for me, it’s that the ONS is the most wonderful rabbit hole full of facts and figures I have ever seen, and I’ll never complain about paying taxes ever again. On the face of it, this is a bit of a ‘non story’. More women had babies and more women left the workforce. The important question now is, how many of them will come back?

I’d love to know what you think. Please comment below and let me know!

dBx Acoustics

Noise, Fatigue and Acoustic Design In Call Centres

We are all familiar with call centres – and most of the time when we talk about them it’s from the caller’s point of view. Are you frustrated when you are put through to someone in another country? Does the fake friendliness of the scripted interaction annoy you? But step back for a moment and remember some of those calls – was there something else that bothered you?

I know from my own experience that many a time I have been able to hear the operator on the next phone, and sometimes the whole hubbub of the call centre, which both makes it difficult to focus on your own conversation, and may give you some concerns about the privacy of your own conversation.

Noise transfer between call stations, and the build up of noise in general, is even more of a problem for call handlers, who need to maintain their focus over many hours. High background noise levels lead to physical and mental fatigue and therefore reduced efficiency, as well as the potential for operators to suffer from vocal fatigue which may lead to higher than normal absence rates through sickness. A 2008 study found that 28.7% of workers suffered permanent auditory fatigue, and that by the end of the working day this number had risen to 71.3%. The same study showed 48% of workers reporting vocal problems over the previous 12 month period.

This issue isn’t about to go away, either – the world’s largest call centre, with 20,000 seats, is about to open in China.

In the UK, over a million people work in the industry and there are over 5,000 call centres. Clearly both from the point of view of employer’s extracting the best and most efficient work from their employees, and for the health and welfare of the employees themselves, acoustic conditions in call centres need to be carefully considered, whatever their size.

Whether you’re planning a new contact centre, or having issues in an existing facility, it’s worth talking to a qualified acoustic consultant before you embark on the installation of acoustic treatments. A careful balance of both screening and acoustically absorptive finishes is required, and even the noise produced by the ventilation system can be used to help provide some sound masking. A consultant such as dBx Acoustics can model the space and demonstrate the auditory effect of different treatment options, allowing the client to assess the relative benefits and costs of various treatment schemes. Being able to optimize the placement and quantity of acoustic treatments allows a more effective and cost-conscious approach to acoustics, rather than just installing some absorptive treatments and hoping for the best.

Happier, healthier call centre workers? More calls, dealt with better, with lower staff absence rates? It sounds good to us. If you would like to talk to dBx Acoustics about how we can help you with call centre acoustics, please contact us!

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