Women and construction

Getting women into construction

It’s no secret that construction is not the most female-friendly industry. According to statistics, only 11% of the entire construction workforce are women. Furthermore, a mere 1% of onsite construction workers are women. These numbers are really shocking, and we want to get to the bottom of why there are so few women in our grafter community and in the construction industry as a whole. This gender imbalance in the sector really stands out, and needs to be addressed.

Why the lack of women?

Gender Stereotypes

While gender stereotypes can crop up in any industry, they seem to impact those working in construction the most. The stereotype that women don’t enjoy getting their hands dirty is extremely outdated, and is preventing women from being part of a huge industry. The building site is currently viewed by many as purely a man’s world, with only 13% of women aged 16-35 saying that they would consider a career in construction.

But this lack of interest in the industry can also be explained by the fact many girls go through school not knowing that a career construction is even an option for them. As children, boys aspire be to Bob the Builder while girls didn’t really have a prominent industry-based role model to look up to. Therefore, we grow up believing that only men can work in construction – which is simply not the case.

Pay Gap

The issue of the pay gap between men and women is one that has been tackled across a range of industries recently, and rightly so. However, there is still a significant difference between the pay of men and women working in construction. A report conducted by the Office for National Statistics found that women are paid at an average hourly rate of £8.04 – which is only just above the national minimum wage at that time. This statistic is made even more horrifying considering that the average hourly rate for men is £14.74.

With such a huge difference in pay, it’s not hard to see why women may be put off pursuing a career in construction. In addition, Randstad found that 43% of construction organisations don’t monitor their pay equality. Clearly, action needs to be taken to tackle this issue head on, otherwise construction will continue to be viewed as an industry that doesn’t actively welcome women.

Not being “one of the lads”

Construction is a male-dominated industry, so joining as a woman may appear to be a daunting task. There is a fear of being left out of workplace banter, or struggling to fit in with the male-orientated culture that often exists on construction sites. In fact, 8 out of 10 female construction workers say they feel left out of conversations and social events with their male colleagues. No one wants to work in an environment in which they feel excluded, and this is especially the case in an industry which requires employees to work as part of a team on a regular basis.

This imbalance in gender also makes building sites more prone to sexism. A survey conducted by the Considerate Constructors Scheme found that 52% of men and women had either witnessed or been subject to sexism while working in the construction industry. Sometimes, people can even be sexist without realising in the form of unconscious bias. Greater awareness of these issues should be taught across the industry to make sure that the construction site is a more inclusive environment.

Why it needs to change

Evidently, changes need to be made to the way that the construction industry is viewed. Too many women are being put off from working in construction for the above reasons, which simply isn’t okay. Now’s the time to dispel the stereotype of construction workers merely being macho men in hi-vis jackets. Equal opportunities for men and women should be present in all industries, and construction is no exception.

However, there is some hope. Organisations like Women into Construction and Chicks with Bricks are working hard to level the playing field by spreading awareness and hosting networking events for women who want to work in construction. Over the past few years, the percentage of women in construction has been gradually increasing, and the Construction Industry Training Board have estimated that a further 158,000 jobs will be created by 2022 to keep up with the ever-expanding nature of the industry. Therefore, it only makes sense to act now to make sure that these jobs are filled by women, as well as men, to keep up with the high demand for skills based workers and defy the stereotype.

If you are women that wants to get into construction why not register on Grafter, tick the Building & Construction sector and hear about a wide range of work opportunities directly to your inbox. At Grafter we are committed to helping more women get into the construction industry.