Women, The Construction Industry Needs You!

The latest Construction Skills Network report from CITB expects construction output to grow by 1.7% in the next five years. This means 179,000 new jobs being created over the five years and a need for more than 35,000 new workers every year.
Factoring in the ageing workforce and other factors, to keep up with demand the industry needs another million workers by 2020. Women are expected to make up a quarter of this workforce. Indeed, it seems improbable that the recruitment targets can be met without a significantly higher proportion of women in the workforce.

Businesses must seriously address the issues that puts women off joining the sector, such as flexibility, equal pay, exciting promotional prospects and any lingering discrimination. The Childcare Act 2016 has increased free childcare from 15 to 30 hours a week. This could help encourage more women to return to work. What we need is for them to actively consider construction as an alternative – something they are probably not doing today.

Companies that don’t recognise the many skills and diversity women bring will find it harder to recruit and hang on to their staff.

Currently, according to the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT), women make up only 11% of the workforce. There is an obvious opportunity to increase this percentage by encouraging women to choose a career in construction.

Change is Possible

While there is much to do, change is possible. Across our business we have significantly increased the number of women we employ. For example:

  • 26% of our employees are female, including 17% in our Construction business unit
  • We have one female MD
  • On our OPSL Leadership team 5 out of 10 members are women
  • 30% of infrastructure early career engineers are women, which exceeds the industry average

Increasing the percentage of women in our workforce is a strategic priority that we actively track and manage.

More generally, great strides have been made, with women’s pay in construction rising by 6% a year for the last decade. But there is still a perception that men and women are paid differently. Greater pay transparency and published pay scales would help to improve this perception.

The industry also needs to do a much better and more consistent job of selling itself. Collectively we have to disprove the stereotype that construction is a “man’s world.” That belongs in the past!

Construction has become significantly more professional in recent years in terms of technology and working practices. This drive towards professionalism is welcome but it needs to go hand in hand with equal treatment of female workers.

 CMI Review Women February 2017

Here are a few highlights that should make us all sit up and take notice:

  • Workplace Equality could add £150bn to the UK economy by 2025
  • Male managers are 40 percent more likely to be promoted than women
  • The gender pay gap among male and female managers still stands at 23%, equivalent to approximately £8,964
  • Only 8% of managers say that their organisation sets gender diversity targets

Perhaps the most concerning statistic was that in a recent survey it was found that almost half of the women surveyed felt that the high proportion of men in the industry makes it intimidating. This is at the core of the issue we need to address. The industry may still be male dominated but there are huge opportunities for businesses that buck that trend and recruit successfully from the widest possible talent pool. We need to come together, as an industry, to change these dated perceptions.

View interactive map