How one employer is training future female leaders


As today marks International Women’s Day, Dawn Hillier, Head of Standards and Qualifications Strategy at CITB, takes a closer look at the efforts being made to support female progression through CITB’s Leadership and Management Development Fund.

“CITB and employers have been concerned about leadership and management skills within the industry for many years,” says Dawn. “Our research into the culture, behaviours and performance of construction found criticism of the lack of leadership skills at all levels, and noted the negative impact on organisational culture.”

This research instigated the fund, set up to help large employers to invest in developing the leadership, management or supervisory skills of their staff.

“In turn, the fund provides crucial insight into the types of training valued by employers, and the impact of delivering these programmes for the individual, organisation and wider industry,” says Dawn.

Amongst the 37 successful bids stands Willmott Dixon’s Women’s Leadership Development programme, launched last October. The programme focuses on supporting more females into senior management roles through the establishment of a new Academy. The Academy will assist 17 high performing future leaders by providing tailored management and leadership support, and connecting each individual with a dedicated mentor.

“Willmott Dixon’s project focuses in on a key benefit of influencing organisational culture through leadership and management training.” Dawn adds, “Companies with a strong organisational culture are those who unify all employees around a set of positive shared values, enabling them to attract and retain the most talented people, willing to go the extra mile to help the organisation succeed.”

While Willmott Dixon’s recent data from graduate/apprentice level is encouraging, with women making up 55% of the 2019 management trainee intake, a gap still remains at senior levels. The hope is for the programme to support in achieving a 50/50 gender split across the organisation by 2030.

Commenting on the programme, Kate Jansen, Director of Organisational Development and Learning at Willmott Dixon, said, “We are proud of our partnership with CITB, and the women’s leadership programme we are developing, which will support our high-potential women into positions of leadership, and help them become role models for others to choose construction as a career.”

The effects of Covid-19 and Brexit have meant that it’s even more vital to encourage and inspire women to join the industry. Like many of the other funded projects, Willmott Dixon has used the opportunity to hone in on talent retention and ways of addressing skills gaps. This will not only help them prepare for a post-Covid environment, but also improve their ability to innovate and perform overall.

While the benefits of creating a strong pipeline of female future leaders are evident for those taking part in the programme, the concept has been realised as just as compelling to the organisation and wider industry.

If you’d like to know more about how you can receive support, view our Grants and Funding page.