The construction industry is evolving in many exciting, positive ways, especially with the rise of technology and innovation. However, one area where it is falling behind is diversity, more specifically, gender diversity.
The stats are damning; women make up only 11% of the construction workforce, and just 2% of tradespeople. What’s more, these figures have remained the same since 1997, suggesting that there hasn’t been any change over the past couple of decades which may encourage women to consider a career in the industry.
Going forward, it’s crucial that the playing field is levelled, and that women and young girls alike can feel like construction is a genuine career option for them. In this piece, we’ll be looking at how the industry can achieve that, and how the industry can support women throughout the lifespan of their construction careers.
Why are there so few women in the industry?
As with most problems of this nature, it’s undeniably complex with many different layers and elements to it. However, a large part of the issue can be attributed to the fact that historically, construction has always been seen as a “man’s world”. As it stands today, men make up 99% of labourers. For young girls looking to break into the sector, that can certainly be a daunting prospect – many sites don’t even have female toilet facilities, as having women onsite is so rare.
What can we do about it?
Making the industry seem accessible and approachable to females would be the best place to start. A recent article in The Telegraph reported that over half of women working in construction have, at some point, dealt with harassment during the course of their career. Harassment and discrimination can be very isolating, and it’s no wonder that women would balk from an industry rife with it. It’s crucial that senior figures both on- and offsite stress the importance of diversity and inclusion – aside from the obvious rationale behind doing so, the Peterson Institute recently released figures stating that companies which were in the top 25% in gender diversity of their workforce were 46% more likely to outperform their industry average.
So, happier employees and increased performance – what’s not to like? Recognising the benefits of embracing gender diversity in construction, organisations like Chicks with Bricks focus on achieving just that. Founded in 2005, they describe themselves as “a proactive network created to enable and promote female talent in the property and construction industry”. They hold dinners, networking events and even have their very own spot at MIPIM – an annual event in Cannes attended by the crème de la crème of the sector. Holly Porter, the founder, hopes that if female figures are made more visible in the industry, young girls will naturally be more encouraged to explore construction as a career. There are also numerous events like the Women in Construction Week summit – held each year in March in the USA – and campaigns like the Construction Youth Trust’s #NOTJUSTFORBOYS have helped to bring attention to the problem.
Starting at home
However, we can’t rely on organisations like such as Chicks with Bricks to completely eradicate the problem, and nor should it be up to women such as Porter to do so. Acceptance must be taught at grassroots level, and from primary school age, girls should be taught that construction is an option for them just as it is for boys.
Companies also have a responsibility – the gender pay gap in the construction industry sits at a staggering 44%. It’s little wonder, then, that firms struggle to attract and retain female talent.
Erasing the perception of the construction industry as a “boys’ club” is the best way to start tackling the problem – and accepting, valuing and applauding women who decide to work in the industry is how we can make it disappear for good.
Advantage Home Construction Insurance (AHCI) prides itself on being a diverse workplace which understands the incredible value that can be added to a team by embracing inclusivity.
Speak to one of our specialists today about how we can help you by calling 0800 900 3969. Alternatively, you can get in touch on our website.