Women in Construction
Women in Construction

Construction is all around us from the houses we live in, to the roads we travel on, and it is one of the strongest sectors in the country as it provides stable and rewarding jobs.

So why is it so hard to retain a female workforce in the construction sector? Currently women make up only 11% of the construction industry with around 2% of that figure working within skilled trades.

There are still to this day many misconceptions surrounding the diversity of roles available in this sector, a recent survey collecting data on 16–25-year-olds found only 29% of participants believed job roles were ‘on site’ only within a skills trade and a mere 13% of women disclosed they would be open to the possibility of considering this as a career choice, however there was a larger proportion at 72% agreeing more needs to be done about creating awareness of equal opportunities.

After doing some research I discovered a few stand out barriers which may prevent people from pursuing this career path and its not just women affected as figures recently show the number of skilled trades people out there are diminishing as we have more skilled older professional’s leaving the industry and fewer younger talent coming in as we find ourselves in an era of an ever-growing technology driven society.

One of these barriers is providing the correct PPE. This can be an issue for women as there are not enough suppliers available for women’s PPE sizes. Suzannah Nichol, chief executive of trade body Build UK says that PPE for women has often been overlooked because many do not realise the impact it may have, “if you’re a woman in construction you get to a point where you think that employers really don’t care about you, or if your new to the industry you might think, crikey, is this what it’s going to be like, and you may then choose to leave”. Having the basics like PPE for women sorted is essential to making women feel welcome in the industry.

Another issue is whether flexible hours are available. Women who may need a less physically demanding role due to pregnancy or time off after starting a family, may disregard a career path in construction as they feel it would not be compatible with their circumstances. Most positions for a skilled trade are 12-hour shifts, great if you have no commitments or family to look after but how is this supposed to be sustainable otherwise? Currently most women in construction are in office and project management-based positions, but what if someone is really passionate about wanting a more hands on role and cannot commit to a 12-hour shift? Many people have discovered since the start of the pandemic there is more to life than just going to work and paying bills, people want a work/life balance now that they did not necessarily have before, and this can be a real dealbreaker for people entering the sector.

It is inherently obvious from a young age, starting at primary school, boys will be drawn to historically stereotypical ‘boys toys’ and girls to theirs and even a simple trip to the shops and viewing the toy selection available can be challenging in trying to find a feminine friendly construction toy! Though there is more on the market now for more diverse toys in their colour selections, it is noticeable when you can easily purchase 99p cars which are the standard harsh tones of blue, green, or red but there are no softer coloured or patterned cars on offer and if they are they are triple the price!

It can be a minefield when you first take the step of looking into construction sector jobs, some may even find it a little overwhelming with so many different options available, take for example, Health and Safety, within this career path there are many different roles available i.e., manager, coordinator, officer, advisor and engineering and these roles can also be field based or in an office but there are options available to suit any preference. Other job roles can be Equipment Operators, Skilled Trades, Demolition and STEM.

Ways in which we can encourage more women into construction:

• Roles should be portrayed accurately

• Roles should be communicated with girls at school age

• The right support made available after family life sustained and flexible hours

• Jobs fairs & conferences should have a female presence for all firms to encourage women to approach

Construction is not just ‘Build’. It is research, design, invention, promotion, and intellect! It is not just being a tradesperson on a building site. Women are not fragile they are strong and are great at multitasking, organisation and contribute to give a different perspective. They are great at strategic approach and can give ideas life and they instinctively think about tomorrow and help others.

Women in construction week this year is 6th -12th March 2022, this is an important moment to embrace for the industry to demonstrate its commitment and give voice to female figures in a male dominated business.

Do what you love – it doesn’t matter what others think – just go for it!

Women in Construction

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