How does the construction industry fare on gender diversity?

  • Guest Blog
  • 2 years ago

With some construction industry professionals feeling ‘there is a definite prejudice against women’ in the construction industry; it would appear there is still inequality of opportunity for women, with one in five UK construction companies having no women in senior roles.

Half of all construction firms cite they have never had a female manager within their business [Construction News] – a revealing figure when you consider how gender diversity and equality is such a contemporary issue. What is even more striking is that, when asking the women who did work within the industry, 48% claimed they had experienced gender discrimination in the workplace, with the most common example of this (28%) being inappropriate comments or behaviour from male colleagues. These are figures that prove that the industry still needs to enforce more regulations to change attitudes towards women in the industry and encourage equality.

Pay – or a gender pay gap – would also seem to have been something that the industry has suffered from. Nearly half of construction companies (42%) do not monitor equal pay between gender in the business and 68% were not aware of any initiatives to support women transitioning into senior roles. Furthermore, according to Randstad, 79% of men believe they earn the same as their female colleagues in the same position. However, 41% of women disagree — highlighting the need for better pay transparency within the industry to dispel perceptions that men are earning more.

With the picture of a clear gender divide emerging within the construction industry, cherry picker specialists, Niftylift, explores how the industry could potentially resolve some of the issues. So, what does the future look like for women in construction?

Moving forward

A traditional male role, statistics highlight that 99% of on-site construction roles are filled by men.  Another figure that highlights the lack of gender diversity within the industry. Despite the figures, 93% of construction workers believe having a female boss would not affect their jobs, or would, in fact, have a positive effect by improving the working environment.

Encouragingly too, by 2020 it’s been estimated that women are expected to make up just over a quarter of the UK’s construction workforce (Randstad).  If the industry intends on closing the skills gap, women could potentially hold the key. With the industry raising concerns that it is experiencing a shortage of skilled workers, 82% of people working in construction agree that there is a serious skills shortage. If demand is expected to require an additional million extra workers by 2020, women could account for a significant portion of that — especially in senior roles, which have previously been biased towards their male colleagues.

There has been some progress with regards to women in senior roles.  In 2005, there were just 6% of women in senior roles within the UK’s construction industry. However, fast forward to 2015, and this number had risen to 16% and is expected to continue to rise as we approach 2020.

A similar theme is apparent when it comes to promotion opportunities for women in the industry. Back in 2005, an unfortunate 79% of women in the industry were dissatisfied with the progression of their careers. However, fast forward again to 2015, and this number more than halved to just 29%, with some of this progression likely to be attributed to the fact that almost half of women in the industry (49%) believe their employer to be very supportive of women in construction.

Of course, it’s clear that much work to close the gender gap, in all areas, is still needed.  Randstad also reports that there remains a tendency within the industry to exclude women from male conversations or social events, with 46% of females experiencing being sidelined. A further 28% said they had been offered a less important role and 25% reported being passed over for promotion.

Positively though, 76% of women said they would still recommend a construction job to a female peer or relative.  And with a 60% increase in the average annual salary for women in the industry in the past decade from £24,500 in 2005 to £39,200 in 2015, there is no denying that progress is being made to combat gender inequality. But we still have a long way to go. Hopefully, by 2020, we can report further progress in the industry, making roles more attractive to females, and improving the gender diversity which could consequently prove to be a solution to the lack of skilled workers for the industry right now.