The construction industry, traditionally seen as a male-dominated field, is now undergoing a slow but sure transition to become more gender-inclusive.
However, recent gender pay gap statistics reveal there is immense work still to be done to deliver equal opportunities in construction.
The recent appointment of Jennie Daly as the first female chief executive of a FTSE 100 housebuilder, Taylor Wimpey, reveals that women’s presence in senior positions is increasing, but it’s been a long time coming.
This blog overviews the present situation surrounding women in construction and how to support equal opportunities strategies.
The Present Situation
The broader construction landscape reveals a stark gender disparity, particularly in board representation, where only 22% are women, and in pay, where historical data has shown a considerable gap. Moreover, of the 14% of women in construction, only 2% are on-site workers.
The initial pay gap figures in 2018 indicated that the construction sector had the widest median pay difference of any at 30.1%, worsening to 32% the following year.
The UK’s Office for National Statistics highlighted that recent progress is still lacking, such as a 22.8% pay gap between male and female construction operatives and a 9.2% gap among project managers and related professionals.
Construction’s 9.2% contrasts with the national average pay gap of 7.9% among full-time employees, underlining the specific challenges within construction.
Promoting Equal Opportunities
To alleviate gender disparity, companies like Mace have introduced strategies to improve gender and ethnicity pay gaps, committing to measurable year-on-year improvements and ensuring accountability with weekly data monitoring.
There’s also a need to look beyond compliance and consider the real-life impacts of such policies on employment.
Mace, for instance, is already observing the positive effects of its diversity and inclusion strategy, reflecting the tangible benefits of structured approaches to address gender pay disparity.
Gender diversity in construction is more than a checkbox for corporate social responsibility – it makes sound business sense.
Studies have shown that diverse teams are more creative, effective and capable of solving complex problems.
Forward-thinking companies are adopting practices like blind recruitment, gender-neutral job advertisements, and mentorship programmes that empower women.
The visibility of women in key roles within construction acts as a powerful catalyst for change.
The rise of women in leadership positions within the sector not only challenges the status quo but also sets role models for younger individuals pursuing an interest in construction.
Industry conferences and media are increasingly spotlighting the accomplishments of women in construction, thus normalising their presence in the sector.
The construction industry must also modernise its image and expand its talent pool.
This requires a proactive stance, reaching out to schools, universities and communities to attract diverse candidates.
The industry’s challenge is to break stereotypes and redefine what construction looks like to the upcoming workforce. Construction’s future is in their hands, after all.
The Road Ahead
The construction industry must continue to lay the groundwork for an environment where women have equal access to opportunities, training and advancement.
As the industry with the worst gender pay gap in the UK, which extends to virtually all levels of construction work from the board to the site, construction must seek to modernise its appeal to those from diverse backgrounds.
While ending stigma and embracing a more diverse working culture is a priority, firms must also usher forth systemic change to end hiring bias and promote equal opportunities for women.
Real change will take time, persistence and commitment from all stakeholders.