We’re building a diverse team at the intersection of two male-dominated industries — here’s how you can too

Construction-tech is a man’s world — but it doesn’t have to be. People Ops Associate Freya McDonnell reveals how nPlan is trying to level the playing field.

Written by
Freya McDonnell

There’s no hiding from the fact that the UK tech industry is plagued by a hefty gender talent gap — and the same can be said about the UK construction industry.

Research by Tech Nation found that although 9% of the UK workforce is employed in tech roles, only 26% of this tech workforce is female. The ratios are even worse in the UK construction industry, where only 11% of the workforce is female.

nPlan finds itself operating at the intersection of both of these male-dominated industries. But we truly believe that diversity of thought will always lead to the best outcomes, and that’s why we’ve put a lot of effort into building a diverse team, despite the challenges.

I won’t sugarcoat it, it hasn’t been easy, but the outcomes definitely make it worth it. For many of our roles, unless we take considered interventions, we get 0 female applicants. We’ve had to think long and hard about our internal and external practices, what works and what doesn’t, while striving to create a work environment that women are not only initially attracted to, but also empowered to stay.

In 2022 50% of our 34 hires were female, bringing our totals to a 38% female workforce, and a 42% female senior leadership team. We know we still have a long way to go, but here are the practices which have helped us make progress so far:

Removing barriers to application

Research shows that if women don’t have experience in every requirement listed in a job description, they are less likely to submit an application than men. The truth is, no one fits all the criteria. We’ve tried to overcome this by introducing a pre-application stage for some of our roles where candidates can have a ‘no strings attached’ chat with our Talent Acquisition Manager to ask the important questions about nPlan, and give people the confidence they’ll be applying for the right role for them. This pre-application stage has proved very popular and has helped us get more female candidates to applicant stage. We’ve also done some targeted outreach to let female candidates know they’re exactly what we’re looking for and encouraging them to apply.

Demonstrating a culture of inclusivity in the recruitment process

We did a big piece of work analysing our current recruitment process, looking at each stage and seeing what we could do to make it more inclusive (the Disability Confident self assessment criteria had some really helpful pointers on this). For example, we removed certain essential requirements in job adverts, added detail on the adjustments we can make in the interview stages, and shared some of the questions we might ask ahead of interviews. These changes help ensure that our process is more transparent, that candidates are as comfortable as possible and can therefore perform at the best. By advocating for these practices in the recruitment process, we can better demonstrate our inclusive culture, in turn attracting more female candidates.

Flexible working

We operate truly flexible working here at nPlan (and are even verified by Flexa as one of the top 100 Flexible companies to work for!) We put a huge emphasis on trusting the team to deliver on their goals any way they want, not getting hung up on things like location or work hours. Allowing the team to work the hours that suit them, from where they want to has definitely opened up our roles to more female applicants, who might have traditionally had ties to home working, or needed more flex in their working hours.

Some of the women of nPlan taking advantage of the company’s flexible working opportunities

Forming a ‘women of nPlan’ community

We’ve built a real community feel amongst the women of nPlan. We’ve got a dedicated slack channel where we share topical articles, talks or advice. We meet up once a month to build a feeling of solidarity. And normally, once a quarter, we get together for an in-person lunch to really bond. Yesterday we got together and had a special lunch for International Women’s Day.

Enhanced family friendly policies

We offer an enhanced parental leave package, a workplace nursery benefit and free childcare for big company events, all of which has opened up our roles to mothers (and fathers too!). We strongly believe that work should fit around family life, and not the other way round. Showing that we care deeply about family life, has been a big pull factor for many female candidates in our interview processes.

Salary transparency

We’ve really pushed this last year for more salary transparency across our roles. We now publish salary ranges for all our live roles, in an attempt to give all applicants confidence that their pay won’t vary based on gender or other protected characteristics.

Future leaders programme

In 2022 we launched a future leaders programme in an attempt to remove barriers to leadership. 40% of our initial cohort was female. The programme involved coaching, training and mentoring to better equip those involved in rising to leadership. Hopefully this will help ensure our promising future leaders aren’t held back by their gender (or anything else!)

Freya McDonnell is People Ops Associate at nPlan. Want to join her at nPlan and do what they said couldn’t be done? Check out careers.nplan.io