What is the state of play for women in the construction industry and what is there hope for real progression? Louise Richardson of Niftylift takes a look
Many believe that women get an unfair deal in the construction industry, but is this true? Recent research has found that one in five UK construction businesses have no women in senior positions, which is a cause for concern. But what are the current statistics regarding women in construction and is there hope for a more equal playing field in the future?
The roles of women in construction
It’s palpable that, when it comes to gender equality, the construction sector is not one of the more successful industries. According to reports, 50% of all construction firms claim they have never had a female manager. 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 figures prove that the industry still needs to enforce more regulations to change attitudes towards women and encourage equality.
Is the situation equally negative when it comes to women’s earnings? Nearly half of construction companies (43%) do not actively monitor pay equality and 68% were not aware of any initiatives to support women transitioning into senior roles. Furthermore, according to recruitment specialist 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.
How does the future look for female construction employees?
It will come as a surprise to few people that the construction sector is a male-dominated industry. Regarding on-site construction, data shows that 99% of roles are filled by men. 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.
Pressure felt by UK businesses to ensure they are fair regardless of gender should help the situation improve within construction. According to Randstad, female employees are anticipated to constitute just over 25% of the UK’s construction workforce by 2020.
Also, employing more women could help ease the pressure of the sector’s low workforce numbers. 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 biased towards their male colleagues.
Positively, the number of women in senior construction roles is anticipated to increase by 2020. In 2005, there were just 6% of women in senior roles within the UK’s construction industry, but by 2015, this rose to 16%. It’s also vital to consider progression, so that we can ensure women get the chance to develop their careers. Back in 2005, 79% of women in the industry were dissatisfied with the progression of their careers. However, in 2015, this number more than halved to just 29%. Some of this progression was even attributed to the fact that almost half of women in the industry (49%) believe their employer to be very supportive of women in construction.
With regard to this issue, there are clearly positives and negatives. Ranstad 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.
However, on the other hand, three-quarters of female workers say that they would recommend a construction job to a female friend, daughter or niece, and there has been a 60% increase in the average annual salary for women in the construction sector in the past decade.
Overall, the future looks good for women in construction, as long as progress continues. But there’s still a long way to go. Hopefully, by 2020, we can report further positive developments, making roles more attractive to females and providing a solution to the lack of skilled workers in the industry right now.
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