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Closing the gaps – more women in construction means more pressure for equal pay

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The previous article (Coming soon to a site near you, more women) by my colleague Nicola Monro, has had the highest number of shares (nearly 70) on Linkedin of any of our blogs so far this year. Given the male domination of the construction industry, that’s quite encouraging, although I’m not sure it changes much just yet.*

However, there are some signs of improvement; you may call them straws in the wind, but they are definite indications of change. Not, perhaps yet, in the way many in the industry engage with women, but rather in the way women are starting to engage with the industry. There already is a UK-wide organisation “Women in Property” which has a Scottish branch (and which I will write about in a separate blog in the near future) and I recently came across the “Women into Construction” (WIC) project and was very impressed by what they are doing and want to share it with you. It’s through organisations such as these, operating at both a regional and national level, plus grassroots pressure from young women who want to work in construction and property that we’ll start to see real change.

WIC began when the various facilities for the 2012 Olympics were being constructed in in London.  A group of women involved in the project wanted to demonstrate that “there are many women who are highly motivated and keen to find opportunities within the construction sector, and that they have a positive contribution to make once brokered into placements and employment.”

Funding followed from the CITB and the London Development Agency.  In 2015, Women in Construction became an independent, not-for-profit organisation, providing “advice and guidance, training, work-placements and jobs, to women interested in entering the construction industry.”  Initially, they were very much focused on London but have begun to expand their reach and now work in Birmingham and Wales. While there are a number of groups in Scotland which work to improve female representation in STEM subjects generally, there isn’t yet anything that I’m aware of that is as overt in its objectives as WIC (although please do put me right if that’s not the case!).

Why does this matter?  There are two reasons.  First, and most obvious, we need more talented people in construction/property.  Excluding, for historical/traditional reasons, half the population simply does not make economic or business sense. Secondly, in just over a month (in April), all companies with more than 250 employees must, by law, publish their first gender pay gap report on the appropriate page of the website.  Essentially, these reports seek to measure, for both the mean and the median levels of male and female pay (and bonuses separately) the difference between the sexes. Where there are lots of senior level, well-paid men (directors, etc.) and lots of relatively lower level, less well paid, women (secretaries, admin, etc.) the gap will probably be quite substantial. Firms can also, should they choose, publish these gaps on their own website and provide an explanation as well.  However, in construction, given the paucity of women working in the industry, especially at senior level, it’s highly likely that the gaps will be quite substantial.  Nothing is going to make any great difference between now and April, but the upsurge of interest in the last blog and, hopefully, in this one, may, just, be a tiny part of a movement to redress the balance and get more women working in our industry

Alison Blake, Manager, Peace Recruitment

*  I know, I know - Rome wasn’t built in a day, but that’s because there were no women involved!

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