The skills gap in construction continues to challenge the sector, with little sign of it narrowing in the near future.
But the stark figures on the number of women in construction offer an opportunity to boost skills with a concerted effort to change culture and working practices in the industry and inspire more women into a career in construction.
Between 65% and 70% of the UK workforce is now made up of women, yet that figure tumbles to 14% in the construction sector and a fairly damning 2% when looking at the number of women working on sites across the country.
There are many companies and organisations working hard to encourage women into the industry, but the figures make clear that much more needs to be done to inspire and motivate women to choose a career in construction.
When it comes to pay, the latest data published by the Government shows that among the UK’s top principal contractors the gap between men and women ranges from £34% to 10%.
Although there has been some progress, sadly in the 21stcentury a culture of sexism is still prevalent and it’s understandably a significant barrier for women. This is an issue that is cutting the sector off from 50% of the talent available to close the skills gap.
A RICS survey in 2017 identified that 30% of women already in construction believe that sexism stops them from pursuing senior roles. The same survey showed that 38% of men in the sector believe that their skills are better suited to the sector than women. It would be interesting to know what those men perceived those skills to be!
Changing culture is never easy but the industry really needs to prioritise its effort and take a harder look at itself to identify ways to change so that it can benefit from the pool of talent that is going elsewhere.
The sector needs to develop much greater early engagement with young women with the creation of more female construction ambassadors.
The UK Government innovation agency, Innovate UK, recommends a number of changes including the introduction of more flexible working and higher paid part-time role for women and men, specific training for women, construction sit open days and cleaner workspaces.
Construction needs more talent. If it can do a better job of inspiring women eradicating sexist culture where it still exists, there is a rich seam of talent already available.