Gender Equality in Construction

Gender Equality in ConstructionThe construction industry is still lacking in gender equality. In 2007 12.1% of workers in construction were female workers. Reports in 2016 showed that the statistic only increased slightly to 12.8%.

Even in 2019 as a training provider, 3B Training hasn’t seen a huge percentage of women walk through the door compared to the number of men on training courses. Out of the 9981 delegates we have booked on courses so far only 14.96% of those are women.

The problems with gender balance in construction may appear huge. By solving each issue on its own; we are chipping away slowly at the problem and making a pathway to gender equality.

Female leaders

A female leader isn’t really the norm in construction. Just because it isn’t the norm, it doesn’t mean that the industry would react badly to it. The industry needs to give women with the credentials to take on a management role a chance to help improve gender equality.

An increase in female role models in the industry could cause a domino effect. With more female leaders, comes more women below them who are looking to overcome the obstacles of the industry.

Every day in other industries female role models are stepping up and kicking out the stereotypes. In (2005 – 2015) females holding managerial/supervisory roles grew from 6% to 16%. Although this is an improvement, it’s still pretty low in terms of gender balance in the industry.

At first thought, you may think that women are being overlooked for such roles. Although in some instances this is the case; many companies have never had a woman apply for a senior role at their company. So why are so few women applying for these roles?

Overlooking female talent

Female LeadersRandstad interviewed 1,200 people who experienced gender discrimination in construction, 60% were women. Three-quarters of women in construction say they feel overlooked for promotions because of their gender, not their skills. This highlights an obvious issue. Albeit few women appear to be applying for senior roles, but the few that are there appear to not be given the same opportunities. As gender equality and pay-gap transparency are becoming more and more important, what can the industry do to change this?

Raising awareness of gender equality

Employers overlook women when recruiting partly due to unconscious bias and ignorance of gender equality. Unconscious bias can heavily influence recruitment and selection (not just in construction). A scientific study made in 2012 asked staff to review a selection of CVs. All the applicants in the study were identical in experience. The study showed that males were favoured over female applicants and that they were willing to offer them a higher starting salary. By raising awareness of this within construction professionals, the issues of the gender pay gap, getting more women into the industry and women being overlooked for opportunities are being addressed.

Addressing the pay gap

Gender Pay GapA survey made by RICS in 2016 showed the gender pay gap is not improving, it’s widening. In 2015 men on average earned £7,000 more a year to women, in 2016 it went up to £11,000. This is due to men holding more leadership positions compared to women in the industry. Due to the lack of progress for women in construction, it has become a deterrent to those who want to advance therefore fuelling the issue of the lack of women leaders.

What can we do? Again, it comes down to awareness, Randstad found 43% of businesses do not monitor the difference between men and women’s pay. Companies need to be more transparent about the gender pay gap in their workforce and work out strategies on how to rectify this.

Changing perception and reducing stigma

Keepmoat conducted a survey on 1,000 adults between the ages of 16-25, 80% of whom were female. The survey showed that 21% of men interviewed would consider a career in construction, but only 13% of women would. 29% of the women interviewed thought that industry was all site-based and saw that as a deterrent.

A stigma is attached to the construction industry. From a young age, people have the impression that the construction industry is only physically demanding and all hands-on work. Throughout education, students are not made aware of the opportunities made available through construction.

Roles in…

  • health and safety
  • construction management
  • procurement
  • surveying
  • estimating
  • site inspection

…are all potential career routes that are available that people may not be aware of. Only 22% of construction companies work in schools to help to answer questions about the industry and encourage people to consider it as a potential career path.

The industry needs to do more to highlight the opportunities available for women to reach managerial or director levels. 52% responded that they felt “learning about women in management” made a job construction more appealing. If that isn’t a reason to raise awareness of the opportunities available, what is?

Coloured Hard HatUnfortunately, construction carries other, more unsavoury stigmas. A survey by Randstad revealed 31% of women surveyed had been subjected to inappropriate comments or behaviour from male colleagues. Many people see construction as male-dominated and filled with “lad culture”. Woman feel that they may be subjected to derogatory behaviour from colleagues. Although in today’s climate a team built of people from a range of different cultures and genders is seen as a good thing, the old-fashioned wolf whistling and outdated behaviour towards women is still there.

Strategy for change in gender equality

To really tackle the issue, a clear strategy needs to be put in place for all construction companies to follow. 74% of women in Randstad’s survey were not in any women in construction initiatives that will help them progress to senior positions. This highlights the need for more programmes to help encourage women to get involved. Balfour Beatty has recently introduced an initiative that supports women through career breaks for childcare. They urge other companies to work together as an industry to do a similar thing.

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