Emma Davison: Creating the culture to encourage more women in trades.
Plentific sits down with Emma Davison of First Choice Homes Oldham (FCHO) to understand her ambitions and efforts in creating a culture of diversity at her organisation.
Hi Emma. We’re glad to have First Choice Homes Oldham onboard the Women’s Trade Network. Can you tell us about your role?
I’m thrilled to be talking to you and a big supporter of the Women’s Trade Network. I'm a customer service director by profession, and now Chief Operations Officer at Greater Manchester-based social housing provider, First Choice Homes Oldham.
I’m responsible for a team of 300 customer-facing colleagues including 100 trades operatives – plumbers, electricians, plasterers and joiners among others who look after our homes. Men do make up the majority of these, but we are working on ways to open up more opportunities for women and give support to encourage those into trades fields, who would not otherwise consider them an option.
That’s interesting from a Women in Trades Network point of view. Are there any female operatives in your teams?
Yes, our site carpentry apprentice, Amy, has been with us for a couple of years.
We're a housing association and Amy’s family lives in one of our homes. Our employment service supports our customers into work, training and volunteering and that’s how Amy came to us.
She’s very close to her grandfather and her hobby growing up was making things out of granite in the back garden. After college Amy was actively looking for a joinery apprenticeship, which we’re pleased to have supported her with. Now she’s on a career path with us, building skills in her chosen trade and is thriving.
As our only female operative in a department of 100 people, we kept reaching out to her to make sure she was OK. But we needn’t have worried, she sailed through. She just loves what she does; she doesn’t see herself as leading the way for women or challenging stereotypes. But that in itself is helping us learn and refine our apprenticeship programme.
Please tell me more about your apprenticeships.
Many of our operatives have come up through the ranks via the apprenticeship route, which is positive for creating opportunities and helping futureproof our team. However, we recognise that our trades workforce is still male dominated, and we want to inspire more women to apply for apprenticeships with us. In doing so we can develop a more inclusive workforce that’s diverse and more sustainable in the long term.
We’re in the early stages of our journey, working with operational teams to identify potential barriers and ensure we have strong mentors in place for those who join us at FCHO. The plan is to encourage more women to follow in Amy’s footsteps and help us have a team that reflects our customer base and the communities in which we work.
We recognise that our trades workforce is still male dominated, and we want to inspire more women to apply for apprenticeships with us. In doing so we can develop a more inclusive workforce that’s diverse and more sustainable in the long term."
The Women’s Trade Network (WTN) is also something that's evolving, so it's great to do this together. What are you doing this year to help attract more women into trade careers?
For me it’s about getting trades roles to appeal and ‘speak’ to more women - make them think a job in a trade might be right for them. A leading communications firm brought in an expert to review job ads to remove unconscious bias and assess where the ads are placed. This was a with a view to widening the pool of talent they attract and immediately they had success recruiting more women. Along similar lines, 20% of the working population can’t do traditional 9-5 core hours, so it’s about thinking what can we do to reach those people? These are the kinds of things we’ll be considering and taking inspiration from.
That’s really interesting and I would love to get your feedback on future WTN stories and have you join our future webinars and share your insights through our blog space. I look forward to our next chat Emma, thank you so much.