Women are underrepresented in construction, trades, engineering and digital technology.

The Ministry for Women has completed some work, in the Canterbury Region, on increasing women’s employment in trades.  One of the barriers to employing women was business owners not understanding the importance of diversity and flexibility in the workforce.

SMEs (small to medium enterprises) number around 470,000. Ninety-seven percent of businesses in New Zealand are small and employ around 584,000 employees. It is a priority that business owners are informed, educated and supported on the economic and business benefits of diversity and flexibility in the workforce. Diversity and flexibility benefit male and female from every ethnicity, so if we improve business owners' knowledge and understanding, the benefits will include improving the status of women in New Zealand.

Most SMEs do not have an HR resource or specialist so often it falls to the business owner to understand and implement legislative requirements. The reality for most business owners is, in between running their businesses, and doing their business, there is little capacity to upskill or focus on development.  Therefore, resources must be easy to access and use.

The focus areas of construction, trades, engineering and technology are non-traditional roles for women, as the participation rates show. They all have skills shortages and report difficulty in getting and keeping good workers.

Utilising women in these areas just makes good business sense; otherwise you ignore 50 percent of the population. Having a diverse workforce means you are better represented to serve your customer base.

Hiring women to work in trades in Canterbury has shown they are keen to learn, get up to speed quickly, careful with expensive equipment, aware of health and safety, reliable and helpful in a team and loyal to their employers. Hiring women is good for the bottom line.

The Ministry for Women has partnered with business representative organisations, trade associations and private enterprise to develop a practical robust and accessible resource to educate, inform and support SME business owners on providing for a diverse and flexible workforce.

Watch this space for business profiles of champions of diversity and flexibility, relevant resources and articles.

Read  Flexible Work Design in New Zealand and information on the benefits, rights and responsbilities of flexible work .

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has more information on flexible work arrangements.  - See more at: