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One in five construction companies in the UK have no women in senior roles. With some industry professionals believing that ‘there is a definite prejudice against women’ in the construction industry, there appears to still be an inequality of opportunity for women.

According to Construction News, half of all construction firms claim they have never had a female manager within their business — a shocking figure when gender diversity and equality is such a pressing issue. What is even more striking is that, when asking the women who did work within the industry, 48% claimed they had experienced gender discrimination in the workplace, with the most common example of this (28%) being inappropriate comments or behaviour from male colleagues. These are figures that prove that the industry still needs to enforce more regulations to change attitudes towards women in the industry and encourage equality.

And a gender pay gap also appears to be a big issue still circulating within the industry. Nearly half of construction companies (42%) do not monitor equal pay between gender in the business and 68% were not aware of any initiatives to support women transitioning into senior roles. Furthermore, according to Randstad, 79% of men believe they earn the same as their female colleagues in the same position. However 41% of women disagree — highlighting the need for better pay transparency within the industry to dispel perceptions that men are earning more.

With a clear gender divide within the construction industry, Niftylift, specialists of boom lifts, explores how the industry can close the gender gap and improve diversity among construction roles. What does the future look like for women in construction?

Moving forward

When it comes to on-site construction workers, statistics reveal that 99% of roles are filled by males. Another figure that highlights the lack of gender diversity within the industry. Despite the figures, 93% of construction workers believe having a female boss would not affect their jobs, or would in fact have a positive effect by improving the working environment.

However, according to Randstad, by 2020, women are expected to make up just over a quarter of the UK’s construction workforce. If the industry intends on closing the skills gap, women could potentially hold the key. With the industry raising concerns that it is experiencing a shortage of skilled workers, 82% of people working in construction agree that there is a serious skills shortage. If demand is expected to require an additional million extra workers by 2020, women could account for a significant portion of that — especially in senior roles, which have previously been bias towards their male colleagues.

Whilst we still see a significant difference in the number of females in senior roles compared with their male colleagues, we have experienced some progress over recent years. Back in 2005, there were just 6% of women in senior roles within the UK’s construction industry. However, fast forward to 2015, and this number had risen to 16% and is expected to continue to rise as we approach 2020.

Similar progression is apparent when it comes to construction companies offering promotion opportunities for women in the industry. Back in 2005, an unfortunate 79% of women in the industry were dissatisfied with the progression of their careers. However, fast forward again to 2015, and this number more than halved to just 29%, with some of this progression likely to be attributed to the fact that almost half of women in the industry (49%) believe their employer to be very supportive of women in construction.

Whilst these figures show promise, the construction industry still has some work to do to achieve gender equality. Ranstad also reports that there remains a tendency within the industry to exclude women from male conversations or social events, with 46% of females experiencing being sidelined. A further 28% said they had been offered a less important role and 25% reported being passed over for promotion.

Despite the incidences of discrimination, 76% of women said they would still recommend a job in construction to a female friend, daughter or niece — and with a 60% increase in the average annual salary for women in the industry in the past decade from £24,500 in 2005 to £39,200 in 2015, there is no denying that progress is being made to combat gender inequality. But we still have a long way to go. Hopefully, by 2020, we can report further progress in the industry, making roles more attractive to females, and improving the gender diversity which could consequently prove to be a solution to the lack of skilled workers for the industry right now.

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