Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in the Construction Industry

Posted by Nilam Modhwadia, Graduate Recruitment Consultant on Wednesday, March 6, 2024

As a recruiter in the construction industry, I have made significantly fewer female placements than male placements, and I often question why that is. As a female myself, there is no prejudice in the recruiting decisions I make, and I like to think that is the same with the companies I partner with, as they also hire purely based on talent.

In reality, despite advancements in gender equality across various sectors, the construction industry remains heavily male-dominated, which makes it harder to recruit and hire more women. But why is this? And what can be done to attract more women to join the construction industry?

The Current Landscape

Although the number of women in construction has been gradually increasing in the UK, in terms of representation, the construction industry is far behind other sectors of the economy. Statistics illustrated by Statista highlight that there were approximately 1.8 million men employed in construction in the UK as of the fourth quarter of 2023, compared with 297,000 women. This figure becomes even more dismal when considering roles in leadership and decision-making positions within construction companies, where women are significantly underrepresented.

Factors Contributing to Underrepresentation

Stereotypes and Perceptions

Construction has long been thought of as a physically demanding and male-oriented field. Gender stereotypes and societal norms have perpetuated the belief that women are unfit for such roles, leading to discouragement and lack of support for women interested in pursuing careers in construction. It is important for companies to highlight the diverse range of roles and career paths available within the industry to attract more women to consider careers in construction. It is often a misconception that all jobs in construction require heavy manual labour happening on site 5+ days a week, and of course many women may have no problem undertaking heavy manual labour. The construction industry has evolved, and there are a range of jobs available, including office jobs and remote jobs For example, feel free to view this fully remote Quantum Consultant role I am recruiting for right now.

Lack of Representation and Role Models

It could be argued that the minimal presence of visible female role models and mentors within the industry further exacerbates the issue. Without adequate representation, aspiring women may struggle to envision themselves succeeding in construction careers. This ultimately leads to a lack of interest and motivation to pursue opportunities within the field. However, I am noticing an increase in support networks and events for women in construction that provide mentorship, networking opportunities with a sense of community and belonging. For example, there is a Women in Construction Luncheon this month in London, for those interested. For more information and to view future networking events, visit Eventbrite.

Workplace Culture and Discrimination

Instances of workplace discrimination, harassment, and unequal treatment remain prevalent within the construction industry. Hostile work environments and systemic biases often dissuade women from entering or remaining in the field, contributing to high turnover rates among female construction workers. It is crucial for construction companies to implement policies and procedures in place to stop and deal with harassment, discrimination, and violence against women in the workplace. Managers and staff should receive training on how to identify and handle these problems. And once identified, there should be a plan on how to mitigate such issues in the future.

Breaking Barriers and Promoting Inclusivity

Educational Outreach and Training Programs

Efforts to dispel preconceptions and prejudices about construction can be beneficial in encouraging young girls to consider jobs in the field through educational outreach programmes. The next generation of women in construction can be inspired and empowered by offering mentorship opportunities and exhibiting accomplished female experts in the field. For example, Women into Construction is an independent non-profit organisation that is advocating for gender equality in construction. They partner with training organisations as well as numerous well-known construction companies to actively work together and increase gender diversity in their organisations. 

Creating Supportive Work Environments

Construction companies must prioritise creating inclusive and supportive work environments that foster diversity and empower women.

Some of the ways this could be encouraged is by: implementing anti-discrimination policies, providing diversity training, and promoting female leadership within organizations, which can help cultivate a culture of respect, equality, and inclusivity.

Measure Progress

It is vital for companies to regularly track and measure progress on gender diversity and inclusion initiatives. For example, collecting data on the representation of women in different roles, pay equity, promotion rates, and employee satisfaction to identify areas for improvement and inform future strategies.

Despite the fact that women are making great strides in the construction sector, much more has to be done to guarantee that they receive equal opportunities and the kind of support that fosters an inclusive workplace. By working together, we can make sure that women are given equal opportunities to use their abilities, knowledge, and experience to influence and develop the construction industry of the future. It's time to start building the construction industry's future to be more diverse and inclusive.

If you would like to discuss how Maxim Recruitment can assist in accessing a diverse pool of candidates to readdress the gender imbalance at your organisation, feel free to get in touch with any of our consultants.

Or, if you are a woman in construction, and you have some concerns regarding your current employer, feel free to reach out and we can book a confidential phone call to discuss how we can assist in finding a company that will do their utmost to fully support your career!

Nilam Modhwadia
Nilam Modhwadia
Graduate Recruitment Consultant
Maxim Recruitment

Nilam is a Graduate Recruitment Consultant based in the Maxim head office in Leicester, Leicestershire. She supports the team with researching, headhunting, shortlisting, and interviewing valuable construction industry candidates, to place them in premium construction jobs with our market-leading UK and international clients.