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Does gender play a big part in the construction industry?

May 31st, 2018

According to research, one in five construction companies across Britain have no women in senior positions. With some industry professionals believing that ‘there is a definite prejudice against women’ in the construction industry, there appears to still be an inequality of opportunity for women.

Construction News reported that half of all construction companies have not had a woman lead the business, which is astonishing when gender equality is as at the forefront of our minds. 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.

Not only that, but the gender pay gap is something that is presenting itself forward in the sector. 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 a clear gender divide within the construction industry, Niftylift, work platform provider, explores how the industry can close the gender gap and improve diversity among construction roles. What does the future look like for women in construction?

The direction of the construction industry

Looking at the number of onsite workers, it was found that 99% of positions were accounted 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.

Randstad have said that by 2020, women will make up over 25% of the construction workforce here in the UK. 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 bias towards their male colleagues.

Although, there has been some progress in the last few years which have witnessed more women take senior leadership roles. Back 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.

It’s been found that similar progression is visible when it comes to women and promotions. 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.

Although the figures above are promising, there is still a lot of work to do when it comes to achieving gender equality. Ranstad 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.

There is no denying that progress is being made to help aid gender inequality, with 76% of women saying that would recommend a job in the industry to their female friend, daughter or niece. There was also 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 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.

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