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women in UK construction

Mind the Pay Gap: Building a Career for Women in UK Construction

On April 5th 2018, all UK organizations with more than 250 employees were obliged to publish their gender pay gap for the previous 12 month period. This initiative was implemented by the UK Government to bring transparency, and encourage large employers to take informed action to make changes in their organisations to bridge the earnings gap.

Over 10,000 UK employers in the private, public and social sectors provided their data before the deadline date, and the individual results are available for public scrutiny1, making for an interesting read.

Analysis of the data suggests the average pay gap in the UK is 9%, with wide differences recorded across all sectors. The construction industry is the worst offender in the gender pay gap hall of shame, with a median difference of 25% pay between men and women2. The findings are not a huge surprise and serve to confirm the low representation of women in leadership roles in construction.

Recent initiatives from the UK Government and businesses have seen collaboration with education providers to increase female take up in STEM3 (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) programmes and drive female participation in the workforce. There is promising evidence to suggest an increasing number of women choosing a career in construction, but job retention and promotion need to be tackled to help drive the industry forward to recruit the predicted 158,000 UK construction workers needed to meet demand by 20224.

In January 2018, recruitment firm Randstad CPE5 surveyed more than 5,000 people from the construction, property, engineering, and rail industries, to examine why so few women move into managerial positions. The findings identified a few barriers, limitations, and challenges that need to be addressed, and called on the industry to raise the profile of their successful high-ranking women.

While there is clearly much room for improvement to level the playing field for women in UK construction sector, it’s important to highlight several success stories and initiatives which demonstrate an appetite for change. Below, here are three examples of initiatives that are helping to build careers for women in construction in the UK.  

Engineering female success

Crossrail is currently Europe’s largest infrastructure project, costing £14.8bn, and it is among the most significant infrastructure projects undertaken in the UK. The global engineering and construction company Bechtel is just one of the many contractors working on this vast development that will dramatically change public transport across London for millions of commuters.

The company is proud of its record on gender diversity; some 16% of the company’s engineers are women, and females make up one in three of their team on the Crossrail project. The company embarks on a number of initiatives to make Bechtel an employer of choice for women and promotes strong female role models to help drive change.

In 2016, two of their senior engineers, Ailie MacAdam, managing director of Europe and Africa, Infrastructure and Linda Miller, acting project manager on Crossrail were recognised in the UK’s Top 50 Women in Engineering for their work in the industry. Recognising success helps to raise visibility and serves to level the playing field.

Inspire Me

UK Publication, Construction News, launched their campaign Inspire Me in February 2018, to engage companies in the sector to acknowledge the need for change and help the community to drive forward. They enlisted the support of key players in the UK construction industry, including Bowmer & Kirkland, Landsec, Mabey Group, and Willmott Dixon to help equip women with the necessary skills to break down barriers and advance their careers.

The principal aim of the campaign is to empower women with the knowledge and confidence to excel in their careers to senior positions in the construction sector, through a series of regional workshops and initiatives. They are also challenging existing leaders to promote the industry as gender neutral, welcoming women in all roles.

Women in Construction Summit

PlanGrid was delighted to participate in The Women in Construction Summit, London in March 2018. The one-day conference focused on shining a spotlight on successful women in the industry and discussed challenges and initiatives to help redress the balance. Erica Gasbarro, consulting services manager in PlanGrid, joined female executives from construction firms Jacobs, HS2, Lendlease, and Skanska and others. Erica’s presentation “The Tech Evolution facing Construction” outlined the role of technology in levelling the playing field and also tackling the labour shortage in the industry. She echoed the call from other speakers to the 500 delegates (men and women) to rally for a change in the status quo.

Closing the Pay Gap for Good

While the results of the UK Gender Pay Gap are disheartening for the industry, there are some encouraging initiatives which will hopefully help pave the way for change in the construction sector at this important time for the UK economy. Nonetheless, it will take more than these actions to bridge the gap for good. Forward-facing companies will need to take the lead on promoting and supporting women to make a long-term, and widespread, impact.

  4. Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) research – Construction Skills Network UK

Amanda Fennell

Amanda Fennell joined PlanGrid in October 2017. As Head of Marketing in EMEA, based in the UK. She has 20 year's marketing experience in IT, including working with some leading cloud organizations. She was the first marketing recruit in EMEA and supported the launch of the company in the region. Amanda holds an MA in Communications and Cultural Studies from DCU, Ireland.

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