Construction is a traditionally male-dominated sector. But knowing the many benefits that gender diversity brings, industry leaders are working hard to redress the gender balance and diversify their workforce. Today, there are opportunities at all levels for women in construction. Here’s why that’s a good thing for the industry.
Plugging the skills gap
The construction sector is in the grip of a serious skills shortage, with the number of young people entering the industry not enough to replace the number of workers going into retirement. According to the Chartered Industry of Building, 157,000 people will need to begin their careers in the sector by 2021 in order to meet recruitment targets.
With more gender diversity in construction, a large proportion of that shortage can be met by additional female workers, who currently only make up 12% of the construction workforce. There is a big drive to encourage girls to take up STEM subjects in schools, and to educate this new generation of female workers about the benefits of a career in construction. And it’s beginning to make a difference: women in construction are predicted to make up 25% of the workforce by 2020.
Climbing the ladder
Working in the construction industry isn’t all about hard hats and high-vis jackets, but women in construction management are rare. Those who do hold senior roles frequently report being mistaken for the secretary, or having to go the extra mile to be accepted as equals.
This male-dominated culture is slowly changing, as employers begin to appreciate the advantages of gender diversity in senior management. With more women in leadership roles, there is more emphasis on traditionally ‘female’ traits like collaboration, negotiation and emotional intelligence – all of which are important for business success.
As the construction industry becomes more diverse, the barriers to female workers should become easier to overcome. There will be opportunities to join the workforce at all levels, with some women starting their construction career at entry level and climbing the ladder, and others making the transition to construction management from other industries – bringing valuable skills and experience with them.
How to diversify your workforce
There’s a wide pool of female talent out there, and it’s vital for the construction industry to take advantage of this untapped source of talent. But in order to attract more female construction workers, it’s important to consider why women are often put off careers in the sector, and work hard to make the industry a more female-friendly environment. Measures that employers can take include:
- Outreach work in schools and colleges, to educate young women about the benefits of a career in construction.
- Networking events to recruit and support women working in construction.
- Supporting flexible working patterns, and offering generous maternity and paternity packages and subsidised childcare.
- Pay transparency and a commitment to support women to move into senior roles.
- Training for all workers on the business case for diversity.
- Zero tolerance of sexist behaviour and gender discrimination.
- Offering apprenticeships to women wanting to enter the industry, with opportunities for them to join the company as full-time employees upon completing their training.