Gender in Construction
24 May 2018
The UK construction industry provides a tenth of the UK GDP, with an output value worth almost £164 billion in 2017. Data from the Office of National Statistics shows a large disparity between men and women within the construction industry. There are circa 296,000 firms throughout the UK, with approx. 2.3 million workers; however, only 296,000 are women – a 87:13 split. PAL Hire explores the world of construction and how women are treated within the industry.
A lot of people fail to realize that there are other areas of construction that aren’t the ‘dirty’ and ‘dangerous’. A lot of ‘behind the scenes’ jobs are available that may suit the skill sets of some women, but without the opportunity to learn and understand the industry, they will never have the chance to know.
Beyond the stereotype
Building Specifier conducted a survey in 2017 to find out the public perceptions of construction workers. The five most common perceptions were:
- Revealing ‘Builders Bums’
- Ogling or chatting up passers-by
- Dangerous driving habits
- Playing loud music from vehicles/construction sites.
With these perceptions in mind, it doesn’t bring too much of surprise that women aren’t choosing a career in the construction industry. In fact, only 11% of 800 women surveyed said they would consider a career in construction.
The gender stereotypes start at such a young age. If you go shopping for boys toys you’re likely to find diggers and tools, whereas searching for girls toys in google will bring up a kitchen or dolls house. When you go to high school and begin to discuss career opportunities and go on to do work experience, but during this time, a girl will never be suggested a career in construction. For many years, women were viewed as the inferior gender, something that many men still believe. They don’t feel that a woman would be able to handle the hard work on a construction site, or they would be too worried about getting dirty or breaking a nail. These stereotypes no longer exist. Men and women are equal, and more people are beginning to understand this every day.
As mentioned earlier, a lot of people fail to realize that construction work isn’t all about building and getting dirty etc, there’s a lot to it such as surveying, working in the office finding the jobs, dealing with enquiries etc. Take PAL Hire for example. We work closely with the construction industry, yet we have more female than male staff members. Each one of our employees is more than capable of working in the construction industry. But this isn’t understood by everyone. One of our team members, Sadie, was once asked by a man, enquiring about a hire, if he could speak to a man rather than her, although she herself was more than capable than helping with his request.
One main issue is the gender pay gap in construction. Although men and women aged 18-22 are on around about the same, as they grow older, the difference increases. Men aged 46-55 earn more than 13,000 more than women of the same age, and on average, men earn 11,000 more than women in the construction industry. Women who research what the pay is like in a career they are considering will see this and be deterred from wanting to pursue a construction career.
What can we do to encourage more women to choose a career in construction?
- Flexi-work – introducing flexible working hours could be better for women who have children to care for.
- Career fairs/talks – if women see the variety of roles in construction they may be more likely to choose it.
- Work Experience – including apprenticeships, training academies, and school work experience, these will give both men and women the opportunity to have a taster of the career before committing to it.
- Tours – If students were shown around the site/offices they will see that it isn’t all about heavy manual work.
- Partnering with schools – We need teachers and parents to have a deeper understanding, so they can educate children.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY – close the gender pay gap!!!!
According to Statista, gender diverse companies are 14% more likely to perform better. Although it may not seem like a huge amount, hiring more women could be what is needed to put you ahead of the competition.