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Women to fill one in four construction jobs by 2020

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World Cement,

As of 2015, the proportion of construction jobs held by women currently stands at 20%, or one in five, according to new research from Randstad CPE. This is in line with official data from the Office for National Statistics, which puts the proportion at 19.7% as of September 2014. However, this is expected to improve dramatically in the next five years, with women making up 26% of the UK construction workforce by 2020.

Between 2005 and 2010 the proportion of construction jobs filled by women rose by just one percentage point, from 15% to 16%. However, in the last five years this has increased at four times that rate, to reach 20% in 2015.

“Construction is about laying the foundations of a prosperous future,” said Owen Goodhead, MD of Randstad Construction, Property & Engineering. “So the industry can’t afford to be stuck in the past. With an enormous housing shortage, vital infrastructure projects, plus a new burst of life for commercial property, opportunities are everywhere. Only last month Experian raised its economic forecast for the UK construction sector, now expected to grow 6% in 2015, or twice as fast as the rest of the economy."

“In a rapidly expanding industry, every ounce of ability needs to be harnessed. Companies that are addressing the issues facing women in the workplace will have access to a greater pool of talent, and will be able to make the most of the opportunity on offer in a fresh climate of growth," added Goodhead.

Key facts

Women in senior construction roles

  • In 2005, 6% of women in the construction industry held senior management positions or directorships. This has now jumped to 16%. One in fourteen, or 7% of female construction employees now earn over £75 000 per year, and 2% earn over £100 000.
  • In 2005 9% of women in construction worked as a secretary or in a purely supportive role. This has now fallen by a factor of three, to just 3% of women in construction.
  • In 2005, 19% of all women in the wider construction industry were architects at various levels of training. However, as the number of women working in other areas of construction has grown more quickly than those in the architectural profession, this has halved, to represent just 10% of women in the construction industry.
  • Quantity surveyors now represent 12% of all women in construction, down from 13% in 2005. This is despite the role being in high demand on the back of a reinvigorated construction industry. Quantity surveyors can now command a contracting salary of up to £70 000, according to the latest Randstad CPE Salary Survey.

Employee support

  • In 2005 an overwhelming 79% said that their employer had no special focus on recruiting more women – but as of 2015 this has improved to now stand at just 29%, or less than one third of employers who lack an active stance towards recruiting more women.
  • In 2015 almost half (49%) of women in construction currently report that their employer is ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ supportive of women in the industry. Despite this, over the same period the proportion of women reporting discrimination or prejudice in the construction workplace – at some point in their career – has actually increased. In 2005 two thirds (66%) of women had ever experienced some form of discrimination. Now, in 2015, this has grown to three quarters (74%) reporting discrimination or prejudice at some point in their working life.
  • Despite some continued prejudice, an overwhelming three quarters (76%) of women would actively recommend a career in construction to their daughter, niece or female friend.

Salary and experience

  • In 2005 the average annual salary for a woman in the construction industry was £24 500, but this has grown to reach £39 200 in 2015. This means women in construction are now paid 60% more than a decade ago, or an average 6% pay rise each year for the last decade.
  • As of 2015, the average woman in construction has worked in her industry for 11 years. This compares to an average of six years’ experience a decade ago. Moreover, the proportion of women with more than ten years’ experience in construction has doubled, from 22% in 2005, to 45% in 2015.

Variety of work and tangible achievement

  • The most popular aspect of construction roles is the variety of work, with a third of women (32%) citing this as their favourite aspect. One in five (22%) prefer the sense of tangible achievement and a further 12% say their overall job satisfaction is the reason they do what they do.
  • A lack of awareness is the greatest reason preventing women from joining the construction industry, according to 43%, followed by a lack of role-models (42% agreed with this issue), and a ‘macho’ image as reported by 41%. This puts these three issues ahead of sexist hiring practices, cited by 40% of women in construction.
  • In a sign of a more modern and safety-conscious industry, only 7% feel that a perceived lack of safety is a barrier to women considering a career in construction.
  • For those women who choose to leave the industry, the most likely reason is a lack of flexible or part-time working options. Of women who have left a job in construction, or know someone who has, 16% said this was down to a lack of flexibility. A smaller, though significant 11% leave due to discrimination. The joint-third most likely reasons for a woman to leave a career in construction are long working hours and stress, both accounting for 9% of cases. Least likely are poor maternity rights (5% of women leaving construction) and poor promotional prospects – at just 1%.
  • Better flexibility, according to 44%, would persuade women who have left jobs in construction to re-join the industry. This is ahead of enforcing equal pay, at 35%, while improving mentoring and sponsorship programmes would tempt women back to construction jobs according to 23%. Better childcare facilities would also entice women back according to a further 23%.
  • A majority of 56% are in favour of a quota for women in the construction industry. However, an overwhelming 94% said that their own personal success was due to their own ability, rather than 6% who believed they had been promoted to fill an existing quota or internal target.

Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling

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