When I was a lot younger, the only place you would find a woman on a building site was in the pages of a certain type of magazine. There is – there can be - no argument that construction is an overwhelmingly masculine industry.
Similarly, there can be no argument (at least from me) that women have traditionally and continually been paid less by some (many) employers than men – of which more below. When there are no women on your building site to compare wages and salaries that’s not going to cause you a problem, but, whether some like it or not, the world has changed massively, especially since the Hollywood revelations of the summer, the #metoo campaign and the Presidents’ Club dinner in London. We are not going back to the old days, but some are seemingly determined to ensure that change proceeds at the speed of an arthritic snail.
A recent, brilliant, article on theconversation.com outlines the extent of the problem. To quote:
“The construction sector has the worst gender balance of any (industry), with the UK lagging behind the rest of Europe. Less than 1% of its 800,000 construction and building trades workers are women, and even when you add architects, planners and surveyors it only rises to 18%.”
That said, there are more women entering the industry. The problem is that they don’t hang around for long. The number of women in construction has remained static for a decade.
Here’s part of the conundrum, as I see it. Is it sexist to say that I really do understand why women would be reluctant to be part of a trades gang on a building site – and equally that many of the men on that site would not want women working alongside them? It may be sexist, but that doesn’t mean that these statements are incorrect. Should we just accept that women are more likely to do the “professional” jobs such as surveyors and architects or should we rail against the unfairness of it all?
Unfair it certainly is: government figures from 2016 show that five years after graduating, women in engineering and architecture are being paid less than their male colleagues. Note, this is generally before they have had children, so that ‘excuse’ is not really relevant here. Nor is it anything to do with lack of push from schools and parents: clearly, these women have chosen to go through the education system, train for their profession and then, when they should be settling down to enjoy the next phase of their career they are getting out. As a result, the number of women coming through to the senior reaches of the industry is miniscule and without more female members on boards how are we going to engender the changes needed to make our industry more female-friendly?
One thing I do know. Peace Recruitment is growing rapidly and one of the main reasons for that growth is that we’re being asked to fill more jobs from across the construction and property spectrum. Yes, this is relevant, because as a result, we know just how hard it is to find suitable candidates for a wide range of roles. Given the industry’s seeming inability/unwillingness to confront the lack of women (basically we’re ignoring half the population), this is not going to make it any easier in the near future. Yet if construction companies want their jobs filled then the whole ethos of the industry and its approach towards women has got to change. When even such male bastions as Darts and Formula One have decided to stop employing women simply as walk-on totty to be ogled at by the male fans, construction can surely follow and employ women for their ability, not their looks.
Nicola Monro, Senior Manager, Peace Recruitment