With regards to women in the workforce, the construction industry is really making strides. In fact, according to research gathered by Go Construction, 37% of new entrants from higher education are women, demonstrating the influx of female employees that the sector is currently experiencing. Even though women in total only make up 14% of the construction workforce, this number is on the rise, with more women seeing the industry as a viable career option.
But how do we ensure that this growth continues, and the construction industry can become a fully-inclusive workplace?
The answer is to tackle both existing problems in the industry, as well as putting actions in place that create a steady stream of talented female candidates that choose our sector as their career path.
What needs immediate attention?
It’s no great secret that the construction sector as a whole has had issues with sexism and male bias; research shows that 52% of employees have experienced some degree of sexism in the workplace, and just under half have never had a female manager. Equally, 73% of women in the industry feel that they’ve been passed up for a promotion or contract purely based on their sex, rather than their ability. This shows a clear need for more women in positions of authority within construction and building companies – with increased visibility leading to increased acceptance and more opportunities for women.
These opportunities need to be rewarded equally as well. Closing the gender pay gap that exists within the construction sector would go a long way to futureproofing the industry; ensuring those that are already there feel valued and motivated to stay, and to send a clear message to those considering it as a career option.
According to Randstad research, 43% of companies in the sector do not track their wage gap, which means that an average of 14% of women are paid less for the same role as men. This increases to 22% at higher level roles. Of course, this isn’t indicative of every company in the construction industry, and there are some prominent exceptions. For example, at Thirdway we’re proud to have no gender pay gap whatsoever, but rather, pay staff according to skill and experience.
It’s also important that women who work in the industry feel comfortable pursuing both a career and a personal life. The issue of maternity packages for women working in construction is one that’s been raised before, and it’s still something that’s yet to be fully addressed. While this varies from company to company, it’s important that women – who make up a minority of the construction workforce – have options available to them, and don’t feel pressured into staying in work for fear of being demoted or losing an income. ThirdWay is doing its part to ensure that female members of staff feel able to have a family, with a highly-competitive maternity package.
Building for the future
This visibility is key across all areas, not just pay, but culture, HR, and the roles themselves. To ensure that construction is seen as a viable career choice for young girls, our Client Services Director, Abi Munslow, believes it’s all about awareness. “Naturally the more women we see in construction, the more it becomes an obvious career path to the younger generation – I think my eyes were opened to it early on with my mum in a similar career path.”
ThirdWay Associate Architect, Amy Martin, echoes the need for more female role models:
“In architecture specifically, whilst there are many leading women who are successful and very talented, you are still faced with a male dominated industry. How many practices have women within the top management? The answer would be very few and that leads to a lack of role models and something to aspire to for women coming into the industry.”
But how do we create more of these female role models, and where does the responsibility lie when it comes to promoting construction as a viable career option? There’s a great deal of discourse around schools and colleges, but our People Director, Hannah Grothier, explains that a more coordinated approach is needed:
“Awareness at school, entertainment, and even social media is highly important as well as being educated at home. Growing up, my mum was the breadwinner in our household and I watched her balance a highly successful career whilst raising three children.”
Above all else, it’s about showing women that they can pursue careers in the industry not because they’re female – and certainly not despite it – but as part of a fully-inclusive workforce in which you are judged on your skills and experience. At ThirdWay, we are lucky to have the respect of our male counterparts and management team, and we’re confident that we don’t get overlooked or, perhaps more offensive, promoted just because of our gender. We are hired and rewarded because we are the best person for the job. The aspiration is for the industry as a whole to consider both sexes equal.