Addressing gender disparity in the construction industry

Mark Robinson Group Chief Executive Headshot SCAPE no backgroundv2

Gender disparity within the UK workforce is a hot topic, now more than ever. The disparity has become so stark that the UK Government has been compelled to enforce legislation which will see around 9,000 companies publish their gender pay gap data as of April 2018.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest culprits for gender imbalance is the UK construction industry; considered one of the worst sector for female employees. A UK Economic Outlook report reveals that women make just 12.6% up of the workforce, and with the industry affording troubling statistics such as this, there is a clear need for change.

More broadly, women still appear to draw the short straw in employment. A 2017 report published by the Office for National Statistics showed that women earn 14% less than males who are in the same role. This figure rises to 22% further up the hierarchical ladder, with male managers 40% more likely than female managers to be promoted into higher roles according to data from the Chartered Management Institute.

Earlier this year, recruitment firm Ranstad published a ‘Women in Construction’ report which highlighted that inappropriate male comments, missed promotion opportunities and an unconscious bias influenced by the wrongly perceived culture of the workplace, all deterred women from entering into a construction related career pathway.

Mark Robinson, SCAPE Chief Executive

However, in spite of this, the findings did uncover some areas of progress. Women working in construction is on the rise, with 37% of new entrants into the industry being females arriving from higher education.

To maintain and improve this positive trajectory, we must help increase the attraction of the construction sector to women by ensuring that there are sufficient female role models in senior positions who can provide guidance and insight. In fact - according to a 2018 Ranstad Report, 93% of the existing workforce say that having female senior leadership would maintain or improve standards of work.

Independent not-for-profit organisations such as ‘Women Into Construction’ are also providing bespoke support to women wishing to work in the construction industry. They are doing so by assisting contractors to recruit driven, trained women into the sector. The consequence of efforts such as this is clear - a larger pool of talent drives forward UK productivity by shrinking the skills gap, and in the wake of Brexit, this is more important than ever.

We must embrace efforts to normalise female leadership and actively challenge the misconception that the construction industry is solely for men. Thankfully, the industry has woken up to this and we are beginning to see campaigns drawn up to tackle the challenge such as the ‘Inspire Me’ campaign from Construction News. We must also get better at highlighting the wide variety of roles available in the industry beyond laying bricks and plastering walls. SCAPE’s very own Victoria Brambini, Managing Director of SCAPE Procure is a champion for equal rights in the industry, having won the Nottingham Post Women in Construction Award last year.

While there is still a long way to go in the construction industry, change is happening. Breaking down the misconception of the industry and targeting females as well as males at a younger age is vital – Kier’s ‘Shaping Your World’ campaign is a good example of this in action. At SCAPE we are actively putting this into practice by working with universities and colleges to educate and welcome young females into the industry.

On a further positive note, I am also proud to say that last year, SCAPE’s recruitment ratio was 47% female and 53% male. Not only is it important to ensure that a workforce positively reflects the values and behaviours of the society in which we live but to ensure that it is a force for driving UK productivity and prosperity for the future.

Image courtesy of Construction Youth Trust.

Mark Robinson Group Chief Executive Headshot SCAPE on white background

Written by:

Mark Robinson

Group Chief Executive