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The changing face of the construction industry for women

Published by
World Cement,

It wasn’t long ago that jobs in construction were viewed as strictly for men only. However, thanks to a comprehensive overhaul of the industry’s image and a raft of initiatives to challenge outdated stereotypes, women now account for 20% of the workforce.

This figure, the highest it has ever been, is expected to rise further to 26% by 2020, indicating construction companies are realising the diverse benefits of employing female workers. Many have launched recruitment drives to encourage women into the industry and, according to Randstad CPE’s recent report, almost half of women in construction now describe their employer as “extremely” or “very” supportive.

To add to this, the number of women in senior roles has leapt from 6% in 2005 to 16% and pay packets have risen by 6% a year for the last ten years.

However, despite changing attitudes, the construction industry is under unprecedented pressure to build an extra 300 000 new homes a year in order to keep up with population growth. An extra million workers are therefore needed to keep up with demand and up to 50% of his new workforce could potentially be women.

Individual construction firms have been introducing recruitment initiatives to encourage more women at all levels but a number of national campaigns have also helped boost numbers. Here we look at some of the most important:


The government’s #notjustforboys scheme doesn’t just target the construction industry but is aimed at all industries which have been traditionally dominated by men. The campaign, which is backed by more than 30 leading employers, is about inspiring women and raising awareness of the different career options available.

The Construction Youth Trust also launched its own Not Just for Boys campaign, focusing on the misconception that construction careers are aimed only at men.

Trust Executive Director, Christine Townley, said: “We hope that this will bring about a sea change in thinking, and in practice, and inspire more organisations to join our mission to train and support the next generation of young women into the industry.”

Gender-balanced teams in construction

Research has shown gender-balanced teams outperform those where there is a swing towards one gender or the other. Vinci Construction is one company actively recruiting to ensure their teams have an even mix and have seen excellent results as a consequence.

Joanne Mercer, head of operations, said: “A focus on supporting female role models has seen us increase the proportion of women in professional and technical roles by 11% and across the workforce by 50%.

“We have taken positive action to bridge the gender gap through initiatives to recruit women, retain existing talent and help them reach their full potential.”

Chicks with Bricks

This innovative networking group was founded by Holly Porter, director of Surface to Air Architects, when she realised there was a lack of female role models in the industry. Chicks with Bricks regularly holds events, bringing women across construction together to engage in debate, make connections and meet key figures.

Industry role models

The various government- and business-led campaigns have helped to increase the numbers of women in construction but so have leading figures who have shared their stories.

Nicole Dosso, technical director of One World Trade Centre, was honoured in 2006 by the US National Association of Professional Women in Construction for her outstanding contribution towards rebuilding the site.

Roma Agrawal is another leading light in the industry, having been the structural engineer on the Shard in London. She believes it was encouragement from her teachers which led her to follow her career path.

“It’s so important for teachers, careers advisers and role models to show young women that they can succeed in traditionally male disciplines as well,” she said.

Despite the growing number of role models at the top level of construction there is a still a lack of women in grassroots jobs. Women account for just 2% of all manual worker jobs, a figure which has only risen by 1% in ten years, indicating stereotypes still persist.

Great strides have been made in many areas of construction but employers still need to ensure the gender imbalance is being addressed at all levels in order to make the playing field truly equal.

Edited from source by Joseph Green. Source: Randstad CPE

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