Spotlight on... women in construction

Spotlight on…women in construction aims to demonstrate why the construction industry should be addressing the issue of attracting more women into the industry. SPOTLIGHT ON... 2 Spotlight on... women in construction In 2016, the number of women directly employed in construction hit a 20-year high. But despite comprising over 50% of the UK population, women still make up only 11% of the construction workforce; this number drops to just 1% of operatives on site. At less than 10% of engineering professionals, the UK has the lowest proportion of female engineers in Europe. With the industry facing a skills shortage, it has never been more important to draw from a wider pool of talent. This campaign seeks to increase understanding of the issue of women in construction, highlight the great work done so far to promote diversity, showcase female role models and offer guidance on how to further encourage women into the industry. Why are there so few women in construction? Lingering sexist attitudes in the workplace are off- putting for many women. A July 2017 survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) found that nearly one third of women in construction said a fear of sexism held them back from pursuing senior roles. A January 2017 survey reported in found that a shocking 73% of female engineers have experienced sexual discrimination, harassment or victimisation at work. In 2018, it was reveale d in a survey that construction has the third highest rate of unwanted sexual attention in the workplace, just below the hospitality and retail industries. Casual sexism, such as patronising and belittling attitudes, is also damaging and can result in women feeling unwelcome. Other reasons for female under-representation in the industry relate to working conditions. While there have been vast improvements in recent years, particularly in on-site facilities, some sites still do not provide separate and equal welfare facilities. A 2018 survey by Unite discovered that women share toilets with men on one in five construction sites. Inflexible working hours can also deter women who have family commitments, contributing to the ‘leaky pipeline’ which sees women not return to the industry after having children. The gender pay gap is an issue that must be addressed in every industry but it is particularly acute in construction. The Office of National Statistics r eports that the national pay gap is 18.1%, but also found that male construction and building trades supervisors are paid 45% more than their female counterparts – this is the largest pay gap in the UK. While there is certainly still room for improvement in the industry’s approach to diversity, it can sometimes be more of an issue of image and perception which puts women off construction careers. People often perceive the industry as an all-male environment where the only jobs available involve manual labour. A survey by housebuilder Redrow asked young people about the careers advice they received at school – just 29% of women had been given advice on construction careers compared to 40% of men. This leads to a lack of knowledge among young people about the variety of roles in the industry, encouraging the assumption that construction is a world of male builders and discouraging them from joining the industry.