The UK construction industry employs an impressive 2.1 million people. Yet, according to the Women in Construction Summit, only 11% of these employees are women and only 1% are on-site workers.
While the industry is still male-dominated, it’s becoming more common to find women working in all fields of construction, from plumbing and bricklaying to buying and bid writing. And according to Go Construct, 37% of new employees choosing construction after university are women.
With the UK facing a massive skills shortage, it’s becoming even more important to encourage women in construction ᠆ and now is the ideal time to change the perceptions of women in the construction industry.
Benefits of Women in the Construction Industry
Historically, construction has always been viewed as a man’s industry. However, technology and construction software are changing the face of the construction industry and making way for more women to enter the field. There is a strong push to encourage more women to join the construction industry, so let’s take a look at some of the benefits.
Smaller Gender Pay Gap
While there continues to be a gender pay gap in the construction industry, it is narrowing as more women enter the field. In fact, it dropped from 36% in 2018 to 20.4% in 2019, according to a salary survey by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Macdonald & Company.
The RICS survey also indicated that pay gaps in the construction industry are reversing among certain age groups. For example, female respondents to the survey working in construction in London are paid an average base salary of £43,000, whereas the average pay for their male counterparts is £37,500. However, as the age of respondents increases, the disparity reverses in favour of men.
The good news is that companies are beginning to take notice and take steps to encourage women by becoming more accommodating and improving company culture. The RICS survey found that 46% can work from home and 35% can work flexible hours.
In the construction industry, there is an emphasis on skills developed through training and apprenticeships. These craft skills are in high demand, so command a higher salary based on skills rather than age, gender or race. This means better pay for women.
The demand for construction is on the rise, yet there aren’t enough workers to meet this demand. The massive shortage of skilled labour means that women can expect job security when entering the construction industry.
Since there is a shortage of women in leadership roles, there is more opportunity for women to advance their careers, improve team performance and bring fresh perspectives. By increasing the number of women in executive and ownership roles, organisations can gain a more diverse perspective. This in turn will influence the company culture and the recruitment process, encouraging more women to enter construction.
In a recent video and blog spotlight on Redshift, Nancy Juneau, CEO of Juneau Construction Company, said: “Women have the qualities that just lend themselves to be leaders in our industry.”
Opportunities for Women in Construction
When you think of construction, you may immediately think of noisy, dirty building sites and physical labour. It is of course far broader than that, with career opportunities suited to many different skills and interests such as design, architecture, project management and technology.
There are growing opportunities for women in construction to apply their leadership skills, business acumen, problem-solving abilities and initiative in a management role.
With more companies recognising the need to attract more women into the construction industry, there is a push to steer females towards STEM subjects earlier in their education and to boost apprenticeship opportunities. The construction industry offers a wide variety of roles to choose from that could allow women to find the perfect fit:
- Project manager
- HVAC Technician
- HVAC Installer
- Tile mason
The construction industry as a whole is actively changing. In fact, according to a recent CHAS survey, “companies of all sizes are reviewing what more they can do to tackle the gender imbalance, with 15% of respondents confirming they now have dedicated programs in place to employ more women”.
There is a stronger emphasis on better working environments (including clothing tailored for women), more digitisation thanks to construction software, improved management and more inclusive teams. For women entering the field, this is creating a wealth of opportunities, from choosing a craft skill they enjoy to seeking management roles or even owning their construction firm.
The Future of Professional Women in Construction
In an industry dominated by male workers, what is the future for professional women in construction? A bright one. With a critical labour shortage, there is a huge opportunity to usher in change and improve gender diversity.
While there are certainly challenges that women face in the construction industry, companies across the UK and in the US are working hard to break down the stereotypes and encourage women to join the construction field. And for good reason: according to a report by McKinsey & Co, the most gender-diverse companies are 25% more likely to achieve above-average profitability than companies with less diversity.
While the following statistics are for the US, they ring true in the UK. According to SmartAsset, the number of women with the title ‘construction manager’ increased by 101% between 2015 and 2019, making it the third fastest-growing job for women overall. Additionally, there has been a 64% increase in the number of women working as construction and maintenance painters, as well as a 50% increase in construction labourers.
The advancement of construction technology has brought with it greater career progression opportunities for women in the field. According to a recent article by Balfour Beatty, “Technology and innovation have changed the face of the industry. Construction is no longer about manual labour and the idea that women are not physically strong enough to work in it is no longer relevant.” These technologies open the door to new roles related to innovation and virtual design, like chief technology officer, chief innovation officer or construction technologist.
Resources for Women in Construction
From hands-on labour to project manager or executive-level roles, the opportunities for women in construction are on the rise. For women who are considering a career in the construction industry or are already in the industry but are looking for a network or organisation for support, we’ve pulled together some resources:
- Women Into Construction
- Women In Construction Summit
- Chicks With Bricks
- Equate Scotland
- Women on The Tools
- Women in Property
- WISE (Women in Science, Technology and Engineering)
- National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC)
- Groundbreaking Women in Construction conference
- Professional Women in Construction (PWC)
- Women in Construction Operations (WiOPS)