Why Aren’t There More Women in Construction?

The construction industry is one of the UK’s largest and most important sectors. It provides a tenth of the country annual GDP, is worth an estimated £1,5 billion, and employs some 1.4 million people. But just 9% of this 1.4 million is women in construction, which makes one wonder why there aren’t more women in this thriving industry.

The Equal Opportunities Commission recently did a report on women workers in the UK and found that while they make up about 49% of the total workforce, just 9% of this is in the construction industry. This breaks down further into the following statistics about women in construction: trades people at 1%, design and management at 4%, secretarial at 84% and sole traders at 2% and micro-enterprises at 4%.

Are fewer women choosing to work in the construction industry because they see it as a traditionally male dominated industry and don’t like the safety shoes and construction wear? Or is it because male employers see women as the weaker sex and do not want to recruit them in construction jobs?

After doing a survey with some 3000 construction companies and professional women in construction, the following research was found:

  • About 55% of companies had to adjust their hours in order to accommodate their female employees.
  • 79% said that they did not specifically look for women when recruiting employees.
  • The companies cited a male dominated environment, long hours, and not being child-friendly as reasons for recruiting fewer women in national construction.
  • The women were asked why they were interested in working in construction and 85% said they had a fundamental interest in engineering and building, cited good career prospects or the desire to do something “different” in life.
  • About 40% of the women surveyed had a history of six years or more in construction and 66% of these said that they were aware of sexism in the industry.

Up to 20% of new enrolments in the construction industry are women with some 4% of management positions being filled by women. It seems that recruiters are choosing new employees based on merit and not on gender, and that fewer women are applying for these positions. This explains why there are few women in construction at present.

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