Construction has always had a reputation for being a male-dominated industry, and as we approach the end of 2018, according to statistics, it still is, with only 44,444 women working in the sector compared to 419,018 men. Although the industry is working hard to change its macho male dominated connotation, there is still more to be done to not only encourage women to join but to create an environment that sees companies retain, develop and enhance their female workforce.
2018 – The Year of the Woman
This year we marked the centenary of women gaining the right to vote in the UK, and a lot has changed for women over the course of the past 100 years, but there is still so much to be done to make construction a balanced and equal industry. The introduction of organisations like NAWIC and WES who are committed to encouraging women to pursue and sustain a career in construction and engineering have been huge influences on both public perception of construction as a career choice for women and the industry in general as they push to drive a change of culture in construction. And many large organisations have sat up and taken notice, and are actively striving to change their own culture and attitudes to attaining a more inclusive workforce.
Why should companies be focusing their efforts on a female workforce?
Ever heard of the saying “it takes all sorts to make a world”? If you have different people, with different ideas, different views and different outlooks – you get a more balanced, innovative and rounded view and opinion. But how is this important to the construction industry? Men and women use public buildings and spaces differently and have different needs. Utilising a gender-balanced team from planning through to completion ensures that projects are a better fit for all. After all, if the population is balanced in regards to gender, then surely we need to make sure that the infrastructure we supply them with is balanced? Women are thought to have better soft skills or emotional intelligence than men, skills that the construction industry needs when you consider the industry’s mental health statistics. Emotional Intelligence is especially important when it comes to good leadership, and this is why companies need to make the focus for their management teams more equal.
What can Industry do to inspire women to forge careers in construction management?
According to Construction News, men hold 88% of the top 20 construction companies’ executive board posts. There is also reams of data about how women feel that they are not treated or respected in the same way as their male counterparts and to back all of this up is the gender pay gap, which is officially the worst gender pay gap of any industry. Slowly but surely, companies are making noise about addressing these issues and appear to be saying and doing the right things to encourage the next generation of women to look at construction as a career choice. The introduction of more flexible working options is a step in the right direction as is the parental support offered by many employers. But is it enough? The message for gender diversity has to come from the top and with 88% of those holding these positions being male, it could take a little longer than we would like to think before we see a significant shift in the scales.