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Gender inequality: What your business can do

Owen Goodhead

The findings of Randstad’s 2018 Women in Construction report can be seen as bittersweet. 

While it celebrates the important roles women play, it also showed how far the construction sector still has to go to achieve gender equality. Like other industries, construction has increased female representation but still suffers a gender imbalance, particularly when it comes to senior roles.

According to the Office for National Statistics, women account for 13 per cent of construction’s workforce – far less than many other industries despite a slow increase over the past 10 years.

To put that in context, professional roles in finance – another sector that has traditionally been viewed as male-dominated – is approaching a 50:50 gender split, while women outnumber men in public services.

Boardroom exclusion

What most industries have in common, however, are lopsided boardrooms: in 2016 there were more FTSE 100 CEOs named David, Steve or Stephen than there were women.

Two years after its Women in the UK Construction Industry white paper detailed several challenges women face in the sector, Randstad wanted to see what’s changed and assess what still needs to be done.

But, as this year’s report shows, conditions are unlikely to change if women are three times more likely than men to miss out on a promotion.

“Without gender equality, ideas, creativity and output will be lost and the industry will ultimately suffer for it”

Getting more women into senior, higher-salary roles is crucial, but that appears easier said than done. Randstad surveyed 5,500 workers and 540 employers and found that three-quarters of women passed over for a more senior role believed it was because of their gender, rather than skills (or a lack of them).

What can be done

Encouragingly, Randstad found that 30 per cent of employers promoted a woman to a senior position last year. When supporting women into senior positions, workplace initiatives and support should be provided to tackle the disparity in leadership roles.

Workshops where speakers from managerial positions share their experiences of being female in a male-dominated industry are becoming more frequent, offering valuable resources for women.

Attention also needs to be paid to the overall culture in construction. Helping women to feel comfortable is one of the major obstacles we face in making the industry more appealing. While Randstad’s report shines a light on some inadequacies, it’s encouraging that 93 per cent of respondents accept that having female managers either wouldn’t affect their way of working or would in fact have a positive impact.

Fortunately, there are some fairly simple steps companies can take to make their businesses more inclusive. At Randstad, all new starters receive equality and diversity training sessions – a change that is practical and easy to introduce. 

Without gender equality, ideas, creativity and output will be lost and the industry will ultimately suffer for it.

While construction lags behind other industries, this is something that can be rectified. If more organisations paid attention to the issue, large strides would be made towards a more balanced workforce.

Owen Goodhead is managing director of Randstad CPE

Readers' comments (1)

  • A very good read, and I wholeheartedly agree with your findings and comments. It is now going to be very interesting to see what businesses in the industry will do about it. I predict very little will change. I think most firms will see this merely as a tick box exercise and just carry on doing what they've always done. There is a beacon of hope though in the younger, more progressive and forward-thinking next generation of leaders coming through, most of whom view women as equals. It's time for the dinosaurs in the industry to step down and let this next generation revive the industry!

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