how is the construction industry beginning to change its image for women?

18/01/2019

Despite being considered a heavily male dominated industry, the rate of women embarking on careers in construction is now at an all-time high with four times as many entering the industry now as they did five years ago.

Thanks to a comprehensive overhaul of the industry’s image and a number of successful campaigns and initiatives which aim to challenge traditional stereotypes, women now make up 20% of the workforce and are expected to account for a quarter of it by 2020.

Part of this is down to construction companies recognising the diverse skills women can bring to the industry and launching positive recruitment drives. According to our latest report, ten years ago 79% of women reported that their employers were doing nothing special to improve gender diversity.

However, our new research has shown that a decade on, this figure has dropped to just 29%, with 49% of women now describing their employer as “very” or “extremely” supportive. On top of this, women’s pay has also risen by 6% per year since 2005 and three-quarters of men in construction now believe women are paid equally.

Download the full report to find out more about the changing role of women in the construction industry.

With the construction industry now being stretched under the increasing demand for new housing and infrastructure projects, it has become more important than ever to encourage more women to join the industry and help plug the skills gap.  As well as recent efforts made by individual construction firms, there have also been a number of high profile campaigns which have helped to change perceptions surrounding the gender imbalance.

#notjustforboys.

#notjustforboys is a government-led scheme which has been introduced to tackle the issue of under-representation of women in male-dominated industries. Whilst not aimed solely at the construction industry, it is designed to get women into non-traditional roles.  The campaign is backed by more than 30 leading businesses such as CITB and MACE and gives all kinds of companies a chance to share stories and promote new opportunities using the hashtag.

The Construction Youth Trust have recently joined the #notjustforboys conversation and have been promoting the benefits of construction to a younger female audience. From detailed reports to lesson plans aimed at promoting the benefits of the industry in the classroom, the campaign uses inspirational stories, role models and host of downloadable resources to help raise awareness for the industry and the careers within it.

Gender balanced teams in construction.

Over the years, research has shown that in a high number of industries, gender balanced teams appear to perform better than those that are not balanced. At VINCI Construction, hiring managers have made a conscious effort to address gender imbalance and have taken steps to ensure that their teams are split evenly throughout the company in order to build a diverse and motivated working environment.

Joanne Mercer, Head of Operational Development at VINCI explains their initiative:

“There’s lots of research indicating that gender balanced teams perform better than non-balanced teams. At VINCI Construction over the last couple of years we have taken positive action to bridge the gender gap through initiatives to recruit more women into our business, retain our existing talent and enable them to fulfil their potential.

“In particular, a focus on supporting female role models has seen us increase the proportion of women employees in professional and technical roles by 11% and across the workforce by 50%.”

Chicks with bricks.

Founded by Holly Porter, Director of Surface to Air Architects, Chicks with Bricks is a network set up to connect young women with influential female figures in the industry.

The organisation runs a number of networking events which bring together women of all ages and professions to discuss the advances women have made within construction. Guest speakers include high profiles industry figures such as Annie Hampson, Chief Planning Officer for the City of London and Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities and events have been held at prestigious locations such as London’s Gherkin and the House of Commons.

Industry roles models.

Aside from government and company lead campaigns, women’s progress can also be attributed to female role models within the industry who have shared their success stories and lead their own campaigns.

Roma Agrawal was structural engineer of the Shard in London and cites here her Physics teachers’ supportiveness as one of the reasons she went into construction.

“It is so important for teachers, careers advisers and role models to show young women that they can succeed in traditionally male disciplines as well,” she says.

Nicole Dosso, technical director of One World Trade Center, is another high profile figure currently doing her best to promote careers in construction. In 2006 she was honoured by the US National Association of Professional Women in Construction for her outstanding contribution towards rebuilding the site and is seen as an inspiring figure for aspiring female architects.

Still room for improvement.

So far the signs are good for women in construction. However, although more and more women are forging successful careers in the industry, there is still severe under-representation at grass roots level.

Just 2% of manual workers are female, a figure which has improved by a mere 1% in the last ten years. This seems to imply that traditional stereotypes still prevail in this sector of the industry and more needs to be done to address the gender imbalance and attract more female workers.

Construction companies therefore need to continue their comprehensive re-brand of industry at all levels if they are to stamp out gender imbalance for good and create a permanent desire for change.