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Men hold 88% of top 20's executive board posts

Men continue to dominate top jobs among the UK’s 20 largest contractors with seven out of every eight executive board roles held by male employees, CN can reveal.

Analysis of the top 20 contractors by turnover in the CN100 rankings shows just 13 of their 107 executive board members – 12 per cent – are female. 

Of the 13 female executive board members, one is a chief executive officer (Debbie White, Interserve), one is a chair (Fabienne Viala, Bouygues) and two are chief financial officers (Skanska’s Kelly Gangotra and VolkerWessell’s Naomi Connell).

The gender balance of non-executive roles – those that do not carry the voting rights – was marginally better, with a third (32 per cent) of those positions held by women. 

Overall, 82 per cent of all top-20 boardroom roles are occupied by men, equating to 27 female directors out of 154.

Three of the 20 contractors – ISG, Multiplex and Vinci – have no female board members.

Costain, Engie Regeneration and Mears all have three female board members – the highest in the top 20. 

The women on the Engie Regeneration board were all executive members, while none of those on the boards of Costain and Mears were executives.

The research comes as part of CN’s Inspire Me campaign, which was launched in March this year to help support women into senior industry positions.

How to break the glass ceiling

The key takeaways from Inspire Me workshops analysing why there is a lack of women at the top, the work being done by firms to tackle the imbalance, and what more the industry needs to do.

As part of the campaign, CN is conducting research into why there is a lack of women in senior industry roles and providing workshops to equip women with the tools to advance their careers.

For more information about the campaign and how to get involved, visit our dedicated Inspire Me site.

Readers' comments (7)

  • This fixation with gender equality in high end jobs and other work places is getting rather boring. Surely it is the best person for the job, no matter what gender or sexual orientation they may be. Giving one gender an extra hand is surely against everything that you are trying to promote i.e. equality. I personally think, if you have got what it takes, no matter what gender you are, then you can get there as many women have already shown. You can't just slot a person into a slot as you have a quota to fill and a box to tick.

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  • I agree with the above comment. I also would be intrigued to see what the percentage of non-management females there are against males, furthermore, what the percentage was 20-30 years ago when those 88% started their careers. It is unreasonable to assume that we work in a biased industry that favours men if 80-90% of people in the industry then were male.

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  • I agree that the industry requires the best person for the job, regardless of gender or sexual orientation and, as national chairman of Women in Property, don't advocate quotas or box-ticking either. However, the fact remains that it is the process that needs to change and modernise, to encourage more women to stay in the industry and widen the talent pool. The good news is that there are more women entering the industry but unfortunately we still lose a high number a few years in. The majority of people - men and women - need to work for financial reasons but greater flexibility is needed around the mid-career years, when many will want to take career breaks, in particular, to start a family or family responsibilities such as caring for parents. The industry does little to accommodate them and so risks losing talented people before they can reach the senior levels where we need that talent. This isn't about giving one gender a hand - it's about men and women working together to bring the best of both to the job. It really isn't just a women's issue, its an industry issue??

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  • If only it was true that the best person for the job was appointed for the role.
    I agree with the comments made by Jo Williams and would add that research shows that there is still a negative unconscious bias against women at times of recruitment and promotions (reference ‘Problem One’). As '82 per cent of all top-20 boardroom roles are occupied by men' it is the men who are the majority decision makers and subconsciously people prefer to appoint ‘like themselves’ i.e. men. Thus the percentage of women working in the industry is not reflected in the number women at senior and executive levels. This is why we need initiatives like ‘Inspire Me’.
    If you are ‘bored’ with the conversation about increasing the number of women in high end jobs then consider increasing the number of men in the lower paid support roles. Maybe that would be a more interesting complementary and holistic approach to re-balancing the gender pay gap.

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  • And above we see the very reason why diversity quotas are needed. Because to most men it is 'perfectly normal' that most high level jobs are held by men, and we shouldn't be doing anything about it. As an answer to your comparison, by the early 00s there was a much better balance of women in junior roles in construction than previously (to around 30%). And yet, this has not translated to those same women representing 30% of middle management now, as they should if there was nothing holding them back. Additionally, there is plenty of evidence that women leave construction once they are at an age when they should no longer be 'junior' as they cannot break through the glass ceiling to the more senior levels. In response to the first comment, why is there always the assumption that if a woman has been hired then "the best person for the job" is still out there somewhere and she must just have been chosen on the basis of gender. Why are you assuming she isn't the best person for the job? Aside from all that, there is one simple and important reason to focus on high level representation for women, and that is to attract and retain more junior women, which is proven to improve company profitability, innovation and productivity. This is a lot easier for companies to do if they can show they value women's skillsets and role in the construction industry enough to actually have a woman with a decision making role in the company. Just having a woman on the board can stop ridiculous decisions like having semi naked booth babes at their stand from being made.

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  • There is a difference between equality and equity. More support is needed to encourage more women into the industry to correct the faults of the last 20+ years. The industry has missed out on lots of talented individuals due to its old and tired ways. When both genders are more equally represented then it may be time to say ‘best person for the job’ as there will be more who have gained the same experience, and until then positive intervention is more than justified.

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  • It's clearly not as simple as 'the right person for the job' when CVs with male names are reviewed more favourably ( and women are disproportionately likely to be blamed for failure (

    This debate focuses primarily on gender equality, but more needs to be done to improve ethnic equality as well. For example, having a stereotypical 'white name' on a CV is worth about 8 years' experience when compared to a 'black name' ( ; ;

    As a previous comment mentioned, there are also less obvious benefits of board diversity - 'more gender-balanced boards were more likely to identify criteria for measuring strategy, monitor its implementation, follow conflict of interest guidelines and adhere to a code of conduct' (

    Debate around this issue is healthy, but it needs to be evidence-based - repeatedly saying that we're giving the jobs to the best people does not make it true. We need more debate around HOW to fix the problem, not whether the problem exists - it does.

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