Last frontier: How the MD of Intact Group is making women feel welcome in construction

Marriage and fatherhood fuelled the desire of Intact Group MD, Scot Pittaway, to ensure his building maintenance services company isn’t the last frontier for women.

[Related: Entrepreneur Kate Middleton on rescuing a company in free fall, shaking up the status quo]

Pittaway recently took home the Leader in Gender Diversity in Industry Award at the Facility Management Industry Awards* for his active role advocating for gender diversity in the construction industry, including an emphasis on attracting and retaining more women to the male-dominated sector.

“Gender diversity has always been a passion of mine and was reinforced when I met my wife,” he told Dynamic Business.  “She opened up my eyes further to the challenges women face every day in the workforce. My passion was further reinforced when I found out that I was going to be a father. I wanted my child, regardless of gender, to be treated equally, and to live in a world where others were too.”

Scot Pittaway, MD, Intact group

Noting that female representation in the construction workforce declined from 17% in 2006 to 12% in 2016 (ABS 2006, ABS 2016), and that women hold a mere 14% of professional managerial roles in the sector (ABS 2012), Pittaway stated: “Construction has been described as the ‘last frontier’ for female professionals, which is a sad reality”.

He continued, “There is a ‘real stigma’ surrounding women entering male-dominated industries like construction. In addition, the roles for women are just not there and overall, women do not feel welcomed.

“It is important to, and I believe the responsibility of, our industry to work together to help try and remove the stigma and make roles more welcoming and attractive to women.

“There needs to be an overall industry realisation around the value women bring to our industry; The all-important mix of perspective, better decision making and increased bottom line of the business as well as Australia’s economy in its entirety.”

Under Pittaway’s leadership, Intact Group has made headway when it comes to increasing female representation. The senior management board has a 50:50 gender split, as does the accounts team and there is a 40:60 split of men to women in data entry and reception. Meanwhile, 25% of the company’s workforce is female, with 12 trade service management and coordination positions filled by women.

“We believe this gender diversity has provided Intact Group with more balance and a greater of variety of skills,” Pittaway said. “All managers have been very supportive of it and we hope this will help us attract more talent, both male and female.”

Asked how Intact Group is breaking down barriers to women seeking to enter the industry, Pittaway said general conversations around equality and diversity, are encouraged and that “old stereotypes that can cause unconscious damage” are not accepted. He added, “For me personally, gender does not come to mind when recruiting. My focus is and always has been on talent and qualifications and ability. As a leader of the business I hope my influence can filter down. I also recognise the role I must play, as a male working in a male dominated industry, in creating awareness and improving the statistics.

Pittaway said that while Gender equality needs to start from the top, it’s important to secure buy-in from everyone, which begins with ‘attracting the type of individuals who feel responsible for gender equality’. He concluded, “The results are very fulfilling and benefit your workforce and the entire company. Different people with different life experiences will always offer your business a greater skill base and approach which we can all learn from.”

The Facility Management (FM) Industry Awards were presented by the Facility Management Association of Australia, and took place on Thursday 16 November 2017, where winners and finalists were recognised across 10 categories of excellence.