With just 13% of the workforce made up of women, the construction industry is notoriously male dominated. In this article, Janet looks at why there are so few women working in construction, why we need them, and how we can attract more?
13 percent... that’s it.
Just 13% of the construction industry is made up of women, that means that 87% of the workforce are men. So why in the year 2022 when equality is a key focus for many industries is this still the case when it comes to construction?
Once an industry has become heavily male dominated, it’s difficult to restore any kind of balance, but statistics are showing an increase of women working in construction.
The construction industry is in high demand for both the residential and commercial sectors and so there are plenty of job opportunities available to construction workers. That being said, I personally carried out a recent (Sep 2022) survey of 43 job applicants for a Construction Site Manager role posted on Indeed.
There is no error on the chart above, unfortunately. 100% of construction site manager applicants were men.
When construction companies consider advertising for a new position, one important factor to remember is that when it’s time to recruit new staff, most of the advertising is generally done by word of mouth, this means that a construction worker is more likely to share possible job opportunities with their colleagues that are already on site, meaning many roles are not always visible to the public where more women would see the advertisement and apply for the jobs.
Variety is the spice of life!
There are a wide variety of roles within the construction industry ranging from construction software, planning, engineering, design, architecture, human resources, project management, as well as the trades you would expect to see on site such as carpenters, mechanics, electricians and brick layers etc. You don’t have to physically get your hands dirty to work in the construction industry, if you don’t want to.
It is just as important to have women working in the construction industry as it is in any other industry. Having a diverse workforce is beneficial in a number of different ways, for example:
A different approach with different ideas: The way things have always been done may not be the most effective way of doing things. Sometimes a different perspective on a task is needed and that comes from a fresh set of eyes with a new and different understanding of the project. It’s no secret that males and females think in different ways. In fact, it’s scientifically proven that our brains are wired differently. Having this kind of diversity in all sectors of construction is beneficial to everyone.
A different style of management: I have had experience working with men and women as managers, and they are different in their leadership styles. It has become clear that more women need to be stepping up into leadership roles. The good news is, between 2018 and 2020 the industry reported a 9% increase in the number of women working in management roles.
Representation is needed everywhere: Everyone needs representation. If girls and young women only ever see men working on construction sites, it unintentionally gives the message that the industry is only for men. Unfortunately, sexism still exists in many adverts for construction courses and jobs.
The Wolf (whistler) in High-Vis clothing
Slowly but surely the act of construction workers wolf whistling from scaffolding and work vans is becoming a thing of the past. The construction industry is notoriously known for this type of sexual harassment not only on site but in public too so it’s no wonder women have been made to think that the construction industry is not a comfortable place for them to be.
According to Randstad a poll of 4,200 construction workers in the UK revealed that 41% of women in construction said they had been on the receiving end of inappropriate comments or behaviour from a male colleague.
I am here to tell you, that I, personally, have noticed a positive change in the 15 years I have been working in the industry. To me, the industry feels like it’s growing up and getting with the times. At Iconic our CEO is a woman and when I go to construction sites I work with architects, landlords and designers that are women, this shows me that the gender gap is beginning to close.
“The Future is Female” - Eleanor Roosevelt
Despite the statistics showing a definite lack of women in the construction industry, a lot more is being done by companies to promote construction to girls and women. At Iconic we volunteer to mentor school children in years eight and nine while they’re starting to make choices around what careers they want when they leave school. We want construction worker at every level to be an option for all young people regardless of gender.
We want women to feel empowered by the roles they are in, you want to be an astronaut? Great! There’s a woman on the International Space Station right now. You want to be Prime Minister? Great! There’s a woman in power right now. You want to be a construction worker? Great! We’ll support you every step of the way.
Let’s have a conversation…
The aim of this article is to raise awareness of some important issues women are facing in the construction industry and to see what we as construction professionals can do to support the equality in construction movement.
I am interested to hear some thoughts and any personal experiences as a woman working in the construction industry and from men who work with women in the industry. Please comment below so we can keep the conversation alive.
Janet is a construction management professional from South Wales and has been working in the construction industry for 15 years both in the UK and internationally. Janet gained her Master’s degree in Project Management (Construction & Infrastructure) in 2014 and has worked with contractors, as well as on the client side of projects.