How to increase the number of women in construction

There’s a huge lack of women in the construction industry, and it’s damaging business.  

The construction industry makes up 8% of the UK economy, and it’s suffering from a crippling skills shortage. But despite needing more talented professionals to join the sector, it’s completely alienating a workforce that makes up more than half the population – women.  

Construction is an area of high demand, and we are not getting the best people to the best positions as there is an entire talent pool that we’re historically failing to engage. The clear business advantage of encouraging gender diversity is that it could help bridge the skills gap.’ – Duncan Bullimore, Hays Construction 

Women make up just 14% of the construction workforce and have done for over 20 years. Construction has always struggled to recruit young women, partly because of a mirror recruitment problem. This is where leaders recruit in their own image – so if there’s a white male at the top, they’ll just recruit more white males. 98% of management positions are held by white men, and this bias is reflected in the overall workforce – 86% is male and 94% is white.  

The construction industry also suffers from an image problem. There’s a perception that construction is all about ‘sweaty-bottomed builders’ – that it’s a macho, dirty or unprofessional industry. But this is simply not the case. Modern construction is all about highly skilled roles – like logistics, digital design and onsite assembly – so we need to challenge these negative stereotypes and attract more female talent to the industry.  

FEMALE ROLE MODELS  

You can’t be what you can’t see. People need to see other people like them succeeding at what they want to do, otherwise they can’t imagine themselves as the protagonist – let alone become it. We need more female role models in construction to inspire young women. 

AGILE WORKING 

Any initiatives that will benefit women – and men – in business are a good thing. An example of this is agile working as staff can collaborate easily even when they’re working remotely. This is extremely useful for women who may need flexible working hours.  

EDUCATION 

One of the most effective ways to change the perception of construction is going into schools and speaking to children. Showing primary school children what the industry is like will change how they perceive construction. Then when they’re old enough to receive careers advice, they’ll be able to make an unbiased judgement about their future.  

APPRENTICES 

Many construction companies are already using apprenticeships to bring more women into their business. Apprenticeships can be used to attract new recruits, but also to upskill existing staff. In fact, the most popular degree apprentices last year were both management courses. Large construction companies that pay the apprenticeship levy already have a pot of funds allocated to apprenticeship training – so it won’t cost them a penny.  

To find out how you can use apprenticeships to increase gender diversity in your team, download our free guide 

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