Part of the solution on addressing the skills gap is staring us in the face.
Last year new legislation was introduced in the UK that required employers with 250 or more employees to publish data on the gender pay gap within their organisation no later than May this year. In total, the regulations cover about 9,000 employers with more than 15m employees, representing nearly half of the UK’s workforce.
While many employers missed the deadline, among those that did fulfil their legal duties the average pay gap stood at 18.4 per cent, according to the Office for National Statistics. The construction industry was even higher, standing at 21.6 per cent.
That makes the UK one of the worst-performing countries in Europe when it comes to pay differential, with only Germany, the Czech Republic and Estonia recording wider gaps.
Statistics that disguise
However, the headline statistics disguise a wide range of performance. For example, at construction industry supplier Hilti, which published its pay gap data well ahead of the May deadline, the gap stands at just 5.1 per cent.
Emma Deighan, legal business partner in the legal and compliance team at Hilti, welcomes the fact that the company’s performance is significantly better than the UK average, adding that it is largely explained by the fact there are currently more men in higher-paid positions within the business. She is confident that men and women are paid equally for doing equivalent jobs.
”Because the data only represents a snapshot in time, it says nothing about the impact Hilti’s strategy has had”
But that doesn’t mean that Hilti is resting on its laurels. Indeed, the business says that achieving pay parity is a key plank of its wider Champion 2020 business plan, which aims to build “a high-performing global team that consider Hilti a great place to work”. Ms Deighan adds that gender pay equality is constantly monitored, including when it comes to bonuses.
In addition, Hilti works closely with the WISE campaign, which exists to promote gender balance in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. It also regularly hosts events with the National Association of Women In Construction to raise the profile of Hilti as an attractive place to work for both men and women.
Hilti Manchester 3
Both Ms Deighan and sales director for the north Sam Lane stress that, while the company welcomed the gender pay gap reporting legislation in the UK, it does not illustrate the progress the company has made in recent years. Because the data only represents a snapshot in time, it says nothing about the impact Hilti’s strategy has had.
Women on the rise
For example, in 2009 women accounted for 20 per cent of Hilti’s workforce. By 2017, however, the proportion had increased to 28 per cent. “To attract and retain the most talented team possible, we’ve got to ensure that we are working to make Hilti a desirable place to work for people from all walks of life,” Ms Lane says.
Indeed, Hilti says its work on diversity and inclusion extends well beyond gender. The company has a global team dedicated to diversity and inclusion topics and operates a diversity and inclusion taskforce in the UK. As part of its work, the taskforce has ensured that, since 2015, all managers have received ‘beyond bias’ training to address subconscious bias in decision-making.
“Hilti launched its #HiltiInMyLife campaign and in the following two months received more flexible working applications than in the previous two years”
Furthermore, Hilti has also been working hard to promote its flexible working policies to all employees to ensure the company can retain talent as work/life balance needs change, while removing barriers to progression within the business.
In June last year, Hilti launched its #HiltiInMyLife campaign and says that in the following two months it received more flexible working applications than in the previous two years.
Recent beneficiaries of Hilti’s flexible working policies include people in a wide variety of circumstances. Ms Deighan, for instance, worked more flexibly to allow her to care for her young son.
Ady Beasley, meanwhile, was approaching retirement from his role in the sales team, but instead of stopping work entirely took up a new role as a field trainer. “It was good for him, but it was also a way of retaining all the knowledge he had built up over the years,” Ms Lane says. “It was a real win-win situation.”
Hilti Manchester 4
So, while Hilti acknowledges the importance of gender pay gap reporting and says it sits “well with our shared corporate values of integrity, teamwork, courage and commitment”, the company had been working hard on diversity and inclusion well in advance of the legislation.
The construction industry must be prepared to look at itself and address this issue, especially if it is to attract more women and increase overall diversity.
Bringing in and retaining all talent is a crucial element in addressing skills shortages throughout the sector.
Many companies have excelled in closing the gender pay gap over recent years, and those that have are largely willing to share their ideas and working practices for the betterment of the industry.
Gender pay reporting is not a competition; open and honest dialogue is necessary and only through education and commitment will the construction sector begin to see parity.