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Women paid 30% less at top 10 contractors

Exclusive: Female employees at the construction industry’s 10 biggest contractors are paid nearly a third less than men, CN analysis of gender pay data has revealed.

Median pay rates across the 10 largest contractors by turnover – as per the most recent CN100 – revealed an average 30.2 per cent gap between male and female workers.

New rules brought in by the government last year require UK companies with more than 250 staff to publish the difference in average and median pay between men and women.

The deadline for publishing the gender pay gap was last night, with a number of the largest construction firms waiting until the final week to submit their results.

The data shows the difference in median pay rates between all men and women in a workforce, rather than comparing like-for-like job roles.

Bouygues UK recorded the biggest gender pay gap of the top 10 contractors, at 40.9 per cent.

Chairman Fabienne Viala said it was reviewing maternity, paternity and flexible working policies in a bid to “attract more women back to work after they become parents”.

Ms Viala added that Bouygues was aiming to raise awareness of the number of career choices available to women in construction.

Inspire Me

The gender pay gap figures were published this week as Construction News continues to campaign for greater gender diversity in leadership roles in construction.

CN this year launched the Inspire Me campaign to encourage women to seek leadership roles in the construction industry. The next Inspire Me workshop takes place in Manchester on 13 June.

Visit for further details.

Mace Group reported the second-biggest gender pay gap with a 39.9 per cent disparity between the median pay of its male and female staff.

Responding to the figures, Mace chief executive Mark Reynolds told CN the results came as “no surprise” and that the business would be doing more to recruit women into senior positions.

“We acknowledge the results in our gender pay report are not where Mace wants to be as a progressive business that cares about its people,” he said.

“We know that we must and will be doing more to recruit women into senior roles.”

Median pay rates explained

The median is the midpoint in a list of pay packets from biggest to smallest.

If you arranged a company’s men and women into two separate lines ordered by how much they’re paid, the median gap is the difference in pay between the man in the middle of his line and the woman in the middle of hers.

As well as the median, companies are also now required to report their mean gender pay gaps – the difference in average pay between all male and all female employees.

However, the median tends to be more representative than the mean, as the mean can be distorted by a small number of highly paid employees.

For example, in the above graph, the median pay rate – the midpoint when ordering employees by earnings – is £40,000. However, a couple of highly paid executives (N and O) result in a mean pay rate of £47,000.

Balfour Beatty, Galliford Try and Morgan Sindall all posted a gulf in median pay between men and women of a third (33 per cent).

In statement responding to the data, Morgan Sindall noted that women made up only 21 per cent of its workforce, which it said compared favourably to an industry average of 12 per cent but was “still too low”.

The firm acknowledged that its gender pay gap was too high, adding that it had a responsibility to “understand and address it”.

A Galliford Try spokesperson told CN it had already rolled out a long-term action plan to tackle the issues with recruitment and retention of women within the business.

Ferrovial-owned Amey had the next largest gender pay gap of 30 per cent, closely followed by Interserve Construction with 29.7 per cent.

Commenting on the performance of its construction division, Interserve group CEO Debbie White, one of just two female leaders among the UK’s largest construction businesses, said the business aimed to tackle the discrepancies by running early career initiatives around work experience placements, apprentices and graduates to ensure balanced recruitment shortlists became “the norm” at the firm.

Costain Group chief executive Andrew Wyllie, whose construction and engineering business recorded a 27 per cent gap in median pay, blamed a lack of women in senior leadership positions.

“We have conducted an in-depth review into our pay levels and are confident that we have equal pay conditions; however, like many other organisations we do have a median gender pay gap of 23.8 per cent,” he said.

“We are already taking action to address the gender balance within Costain and we are confident that as we progress with our gender balance, our gender pay gap will decrease.”

Kier Group had a 26 per cent disparity, while the top-10 contractor with the smallest gender pay gap was Laing O’Rourke, which posted an 8.8 per cent difference in median earnings.

A Laing O’Rourke spokesperson explained to CN the statutory figure reported was not totally reflective of the business, as it did not include overtime rates, which would have reduced the average reported pay of its directly employed workforce.

With these staff being predominantly men, the lack of overtime in the statutory figure reduced the average male pay figure, giving a smaller gap, the spokesperson added.

“If such influences were discounted, we have internally estimated a gender pay gap comparable to other large engineering and construction organisations and believe that our pay gap is closer to 25-35 per cent,” they said.

“We have developed our plans with a broader ambition in mind to focus on the real underlying causes over the statistical outcomes.”

Chris Last group HR Director at Kier said: “We simply don’t have enough female employees in senior leadership roles. There is no quick fix, but we are actively working across the Group to increase the number of women working at all levels in Kier.”

CN has contacted Balfour Beatty and for comment.

The gender pay gap data for the top 10 contractors has been taken from the figures reported and published on the government’s gender pay gap service. Where contractors have reported multiple entries for different parts of their businesses, parent group figures covering as much of the wider business as possible have been used. Where group figures have not been available, the gender pay gaps for the contractors’ construction businesses have been used. 

Readers' comments (2)

  • This does need to be sorted. Finally I hope that now companies will sit up and take note.

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  • Surely you need to comparing like for like roles and positions to determine the true pay gap.

    I wouldn't think for example that there is a 30% pay difference between male and female in the role of say H&S manager working on projects or site engineers as another example.

    Anybody applying for jobs in such positions know what the average salaries are and so what they would be expected to be earning whilst employed in same.

    The pay gap quoted for each company is surely due to the fact that most of the female employees are employed in office administration roles and not actual construction / engineering roles.

    This is the data you should be analysing and reporting to provide comparative pay gap.

    As I said it is like for like roles and positions data need looking at and quoting otherwise the 30% quoted is rubbish miss information.

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