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Empowering Women in Construction: Bridging the Skills Gap

Women in Construction Week honours women’s accomplishments in the construction sector, spotlighting their contributions, addressing challenges, and inspiring future generations.

Although significant strides have been made, achieving gender equality in the industry remains a work in progress. To illustrate this, we have created an infographic showcasing the progress women have made and the areas needing improvement.

How many women are in construction?

The infographic reveals that in 2023, women constituted 15.8% of the UK construction workforce, with over 340,000 women employed in the field, marking a 3.2% increase since the pre-pandemic era. However, despite this growth, the gender ratio remains heavily skewed.

Infographic showing statistics of women in construction

An Interview with Diggerlady Founder

For Women in Construction Week, we interviewed Pamela Evans, the founder of Diggerlady, reflecting on her journey as a woman in construction.

“In school, I was told I couldn’t be a digger driver, that it’s a man’s job and I was signposted to different career options such as care work.” Fortunately, Pamela didn’t let this deter her from continuing her passion and aged just 21, she became the first female and the youngest person in the country to get the 360º Tracked Excavator licence.

“Sometimes I’d be the only woman on a site with up to 100 men. Some were supportive, some didn’t bat an eyelid. But, there were always some that couldn’t stand the fact that I was there in a ‘male’ industry. I was constantly told I shouldn’t be there, that I shouldn’t be taking a ‘man’s job’. It was difficult to hear but it spurred me on to prove that I was in the right place doing the right job.”

Outdated attitudes and gender stereotypes aren’t the sole reasons for the low number of women entering the industry. Limited awareness of opportunities for women in construction is also a significant barrier.

A Women into Construction (WIC) survey discovered that only 13% of women aged 16-25 would consider a construction career. However, after learning about the various roles available for women in management, 45% expressed increased interest.

Pamela encourages those who are interested in the industry to connect with other women in the field and seek support from organisations like the Register of Tradeswomen.


An Interview with Equans Project Manager

In an interview with us, Charlene Wade, a Project Manager at Equans, highlighted the diverse opportunities within the construction industry beyond labour-based roles, emphasising the transferability of skills.

“The opportunities in construction aren’t all labour-based. Some of the skills that women already have are transferable into the construction industry. So if you’re an admin or in any kind of leadership or management role, you can use that in construction.” 

Despite facing challenges, there are several appealing aspects of the construction industry for women. These include high earning potential, long-term career prospects, and entrepreneurship opportunities.

However, discrimination and unequal treatment persist. 72% of women in construction experience gender discrimination in the workplace, and many cite unequal growth opportunities, lack of access to facilities, unequal pay, and inflexible working hours as reasons for leaving the industry.

Addressing these issues requires a shift in the male-dominated culture, improved childcare options, equal pay, growth opportunities, and flexible working arrangements.

Charlene Wade advises women interested in construction to conduct research, attend events, and seek out firms that align with their values.

An Interview with Equans Account Director

In an interview with Rachel, Account Director at Equans, she said “LinkedIn is always a go-to space when you’re looking for something. If you’re in education, speak to your lecturers, a lot of them are previous construction industry specialists. It’s about networking and relationship building.”

Watch our Women in Construction series for the full interviews on the 3B Training YouTube Channel.

An Interview with a 3B Trainer

Before becoming a trainer, Karen started her career in construction as a Contracts Coordinator and then transitioned into a Health and Safety Officer role in the 2000s.

Karen said: “When I started in construction, there were very few women on building sites. My strange sense of humour helped me fit in with site banter quickly. However, at the beginning, it was really difficult. I would walk onto a site and if I challenged anyone, the first thing out of their mouth would be ‘What do you know? I bet you have learnt everything from a book and think you know everything because you have read about it’, however, I was fortunate to learn construction from the ground up.”

Karen’s advice for women who are considering entering or advancing in the construction industry is “If construction is your passion, go for it! I personally love it and can’t imagine doing anything else.”

With Karen’s expertise of being in the construction industry and the training industry, we asked if she had any advice on courses and qualifications that she found helpful within her career in construction. Karen said “Initially, I obtained the NEBOSH General Certificate, and as my role changed with a new company, I earned my NVQ Level 6 in Construction. I’ve also completed training in legionella management for water systems and cooling towers. Additionally, I hold an NVQ Level 6 in Health and Safety and have taken courses in Face Fit Testing as needed by my employers. For those interested in health and safety, NEBOSH or NVQ in Health and Safety are recommended. Due to my passion for construction and occasional site management roles, I pursued the Level 6 in Construction.”

Learn more: Women in Construction Awareness Week.

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