(Photo from Constructionarium 2019).

We seem to be living in an era of catchy straplines and headlines. Covid-19 has been full of those kinds of messages. Wash your hands. Stay home. Protect our NHS. Now, Boris Johnson has rolled out the latest catchline – Build Build Build – attempting to signal the construction sector the key role it will be expected to play in our recovery.

But whether it’s construction, or any other sector, there are so many lessons coming out of our Covid-19 experience. Is it not incumbent on all of us to examine how we live, work and not just build – but build back better?

In April a United Nations Policy Brief looked at the impact of Covid-19 on women and girls.  It reflected on the compound economic impacts on women;  generally earning less, saving less and likely to be in insecure jobs.  It also highlighted the impact of the increase in unpaid care, home schooling, older person care and with restricted movement and social isolation, measured an increase in gender based violence. Covid-19 has also amplified ingrained inequality in our society, with huge spikes in food bank use and a disproportionate number of BAME deaths – and we await answers as to why.

History shows us that through periods of recession we have had the ability to cope and to build back.  If the construction sector is a key component in our economic recovery, then can it also be a leader in societal and equality recovery? The sector could actively embrace wider build back better approaches in terms of workforce diversity, inclusion, employment practices and culture. Positive signs are already there that they want to.

If the construction sector is a key component in our economic recovery, then can it also be a leader in societal and equality recovery?

Earlier this year Equate Scotland in conjunction with Sir Robert McAlpine, of the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, City of Glasgow College, launched an online tool kit called Inclusive Value for the construction sector.  With women making up less than 15% of the UK construction sector, and less than 2% of trade roles – the toolkit and case studies show how making small changes can make a big difference.

The search for ‘shovel ready’ projects will no doubt already be underway.  If we can get something good out of Covid-19 can it be that we all seize the opportunity to build back better in terms of equality and diversity – not just in the construction sector but in terms of wider industry, education and government.  All have a unique opportunity to drive the long overdue and necessary societal and cultural change people wish to see – and that has come into very sharp focus in recent months.

Covid-19 has shown us we can adapt at speed when there is an imperative for change.

However, it does not need to be a daunting task, after all as Covid-19 has shown us we can adapt at speed when there is an imperative for change. That imperative for change is still with us, and not just as a response to Covid-19. As the old proverb says: when the wind blows some build shelters, and some build windmills. But this time, let’s see who will seize the opportunity and build back better.

By Lesley Laird, Director Equate Scotland