Women in the Construction Industry
8 March 2023
The construction industry has a history of being a predominantly male space. We often prescribe the different sexes to specific sectors and more labour-intensive roles have often been associated with masculinity. Hence, women in the construction industry is often, sadly, a rare sight.
Due to this lack of diversity in the construction sector, young aspiring females have never been able to imagine themselves as a builder or a tradesperson. We buy little boys plastic hammers and tool benches and little girls baby dolls. We inscribe the idea that this industry is only meant for men, and our statistics hugely reflect that this is indeed a fact.
Whilst things are slowly changing, and new ideas are allowing women to enter the construction sector, we still see an incredibly disproportionate number of males in the field.
In this article, we want to take a look at the issue, examine the facts and figures and also celebrate the growing number of females that are entering the field and helping to give the next generation a vision of what their future could be.
How Many Women Work in Construction in the UK?
March 2022, Business Leader stated women make up “just 11% of the entire construction workforce”, yet out of that 11% over 87% of them are working in desk, design and secretarial roles within the construction sector. They found that “99% of the UK’s on-site construction workers are male”.
As a result, we can see that the women making up most of the female percentage are still working in more traditionally ‘female’ roles.
The Guardian found that we also have a disproportionately low amount of female engineers compared to the rest of Europe. With only 14% of university engineering courses made up of female applicants.
Germany has over 30% of their construction workforce comprising of females. Showing that there is an interest in the sector from females. Therefore, we must ask, what are we doing wrong?
Why Don’t Women Work in Construction?
To give one clear answer is never going to be easy. As we discussed previously, from childbirth we often teach children (consciously or subconsciously) that certain lifestyles, roles, and activities are meant for males or females.
The industry has also had a history of sexism, women that do work on site have experienced remarks or negative attitudes and the hiring process has often prioritised male applicants.
We will never have accurate figures for this as a lot of it goes underreported; however, we know it happens from the small figures we do have and the wealth of anecdotal evidence that circulates our industry and news outlets. However, this is changing, and attitudes are improving. The old idea of male only jobs is no longer the truth, but we are still a long way away from seeing a healthy amount of representation in the field.
Interestingly, research from McKinsey & Co found that businesses that have a more diverse work force are 25% more likely to achieve above average profits. Proving that companies need varying opinions, ideas, and experience to ever achieve their full potential.
Why Does the Construction Industry Need Women?
The old mentality is that the industry has been fine without them, but that isn’t going to be the case for much longer. With thousands of developing construction contracts underway we have more roles popping up all the time. With more women in the field, we could have a bigger workforce to meet the growing demand.
The Future of Women in Construction
We can see that things are slowly changing. New organisations are popping up all the time such as ‘Women into Construction’ a non-profit aimed at offering support for women who want to get into the industry and contractor support for businessess that would like to encourage more women into their business. Between 2018 and 2020, construction management roles occupied by women increased by 9%, and this is only the beginning.
Here at PAL, we completely support diversity in the workplace and while we don’t work on site and only support the construction industry with equipment hire, we hope that the rest of the industry will follow in our footsteps.
Our company director, Sam Nelson had this to say: “I feel proud to have been part of creating a culture at PAL that allows talented people to flourish and achieve their potential. Today we are celebrating the 49% of our team who are women and who play a vital part, across all levels and disciplines, in the company reaching its goals so we can continue to offer future opportunities to more women in our extraordinary industry.”
The entire team here at PAL want to say a huge thank you to the women that make up our team, whilst acknowledging the struggles faced by many in our industry. We hope we can see greater improvements throughout the construction sector as we move forward into the future.