In Search of Barbra the Builder!
Last week we reported on the dearth of women working in the construction industry and discovered that a mere 13% of young girls would consider taking up a career in our sector. The main reason for this is that the industry seems to hold no appeal for young girls and they believe that they would face too many barriers when it comes to making progress with their careers. This is bad news for our industry which needs to take on hundreds of thousands of new workers in the next five years in order to meet the demands of the 21st Century. As promised, today we’re going to take a look at some of the issues that make our industry so unappealing for young women when they are choosing a career to follow.
· Lack of Information – recent research reveals that a mere 29% of women in a survey of 1,000 young adults (aged 15 – 21) were given advice on a career in the construction industry compared with 40% of men. Schools tend not to offer career advice promoting construction and engineering to young girls as a viable career choice and girls are unaware of the range of jobs this industry has to offer.
· Lack of Equal Pay – this is pretty shocking. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the g ender pay gap between men and women working in construction is a massive 45.4%! According to women who do work in the construction industry, the gender pay gap begins right at the start of a woman’s career and gets worse as you go up the scale. This means that the pay gap is most significant at the mid-career stage.
· Female Employee Retention – this is one of the biggest issues facing the construction sector in the UK right now. It seems that the women who begin their careers in construction often leave to work in another industry. Another issue which exacerbates female employee retention problems is that women face barriers when they re-enter the workplace after having children. Juggling a job that may lack flexibility with childcare is quite a challenge and construction companies will have to find innovative and flexible solutions in order to address this problem.
· Sexism – traditional attitudes towards women on site are still sexist and women find it difficult and frustrating to deal with this issue. Some women cite what they call “benevolent sexism” – with male colleagues tip toeing around them. Women often get treated like daughters or nieces by their male colleagues – some of whom will apologise for their language for fear of upsetting their female co-workers. Equality is essential and we need men to realise that they should treat their female colleagues first and foremost as colleagues, rather than as females.
The industry as a whole needs to show young women and girls what they can achieve within the industry and we need more female role models in order to make this credible. We want more workers in the construction industry in the future and that includes women workers who can benefit the industry be becoming female ambassadors, promoting construction in our schools and colleges so that a career in construction looks like a very attractive proposition.