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Solving Gender Gap Issue Is Answer To Construction Skills Shortage

Two construction women with high vis and hard hats in a city in front of skyscrapers with one woman pointing at a skyscraper.

Just 20% of UK construction companies have women in senior roles. Leading to professionals in the industry claiming almost certain prejudice against women. Additionally, there is a clear inequality of opportunities available for women.

Although some good progress has been made over recent years, it now must accelerate to solve the gender-gap problem and to tackle head-on from within the severe skills shortage being reported across the construction sector.

The government-commissioned Farmer Review highlighted in 2016 that the UK construction industry was “facing challenges that have not been seen before”. In no uncertain terms, it called for major industry-wide change. The “overwhelming risks” foreseen in the review sadly seem to have come to pass.

Of the many issues Farmer highlighted, the industry’s resistance to modernisation, along with the “ticking time bomb” that is the ever-widening skills shortage, stand out. The government’s Working Futures report into the future of the country’s labour market predicts hundreds of thousands of vacancies in skilled technical, professional and managerial roles by the early 2020s. One obvious solution is to increase the number of women in the construction industry.

Niftylift, a cherry picker range provider to the industry, has looked into the matter further and found that around 50% of construction firms say they have never had a female manager within their business with a and a shock report from Construction News confirming this.

With gender diversity and equality being so high on the agenda these days, this is highly problematic. Of even greater concern is that when women who did work within the industry were asked, almost half claimed they had experienced gender discrimination in the workplace. The most common example of this this (28%) was inappropriate behaviour and remarks from male colleagues.

These figures show that the construction industry needs to impose more regulations to change attitudes towards women in the industry and to encourage equality.

Paul Donnelly, Operations Director at Devon construction recruitment supplier Recruiteasy, says that women could be the key to tackling the effects of Brexit, “It’s essential we focus on getting more women interested in construction roles as this is a ready-made answer to the serious skills shortage problem faced by the industry – it just makes sense and will be a big focus for us”.

Along with gender inequality within the construction industry, there is a problem with the pay gap between men and women still being prevalent within the sector. 42% of construction companies do not monitor equal pay between gender in the business and 68% were not aware of any initiatives to support women transitioning into senior roles.

According to Randstad, 8 out of 10 men believe they earn the same as their female counterparts in the same job. However, 4 out of 10 women disagree. This highlights the need for better pay transparency within the industry to dispel perceptions that men are earning more.

Surveys reveal that a massive 99% of on-site roles in construction are currently filled by males which starkly highlights the lack of gender diversity within the industry. Despite this, 93% of construction workers believe having a female boss would not affect their jobs or would in fact have a very positive effect toward improving the working environment.

Even better news according to Randstad is that women are set to contribute slightly more than a quarter of the construction workforce in the UK by 2020. If the industry intends on closing the skills gap, women could potentially hold the key and the and be the solution to the skills shortage, which will be exacerbated further by Brexit.

82% of the construction industry has raised concerns that there’s a serious shortage of skilled workers. Demand is expected to require an additional one million workers by 2020 so women could account for a significant portion of that — especially in senior roles, which have previously been biased towards their male colleagues.

Despite good progress over the last few years, there remains a significant problem with the lack of women in senior roles when compared to the number of male senior staff. In 2005, just 6% of senior roles were filled by women in the UK’s construction industry. However, fast forward to 2015, and this number had risen to 16% and is expected to continue to rise as we approach 2020.

Further progress is being made in the area of promotion opportunities and the rate in which they are offered to women within the industry. In 2005, 79% of women in the industry were dissatisfied with the progression of their careers. However, in 2015, this number more than halved to just 29%, with some of this progression likely to be attributed to the fact that almost half of women in the industry (49%) believe their employer to be very supportive of women in construction.

These figures are encouraging and show progression in terms of starting to close the gender gap in the construction industry. But there remains much to be done to truly attack the problem. According to Randstad, curiously there remains a tendency within the industry to exclude women from male conversations or social events, with 46% of women experiencing being left out. An additional 28% said they had been offered a lesser role and 25% reported being passed over for promotion.

With gender discrimination far from being resolved, it appears that women remain quite positive towards the construction industry which is mora than likely due to the good progress being made to deal with the problem. Over three-quarters of woman asked said they would recommend a female friend or relative to pursue a job within the construction sector.

The sector is also dealing with the pay gap with the average annual salary for women in the last decade with construction jobs has increased by 60%, rising from £24,500 in 2005 to £39,200 in 2015. But there is still a long way to go. We feel certain that by 2020, further great progress will occur in the industry, making roles more attractive to females, and improving the gender diversity which could consequently prove to be a solution to the lack of skilled workers for the industry right now and minimise one of the impacts Brexit threatens.