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Gender diversity in construction a priority

Gender diversity in the construction sector has long been an industry imperative, but how much progress have we really made? According to a new survey conducted by specialist construction recruitment firm One Way, not a lot. In fact, research indicates that the number of women in-industry is dramatically less than previously anticipated.

The figures make for some fascinating reading. In total, 65% of survey respondents claimed to work in an environment where less than 5% of the workforce is made up of women in active construction roles. It’s an astonishing admission – one which speaks volumes of the sector’s widening gender gap.

Discussing potential barriers to entry, more than half (58%) laid blame on the industry itself – thanks in part to good old fashioned stereotyping during the recruitment process, and a simple lack of commitment from employers. Additionally, just over a third (35%) expressed their doubt that construction was a popular career choice for women. If so, this is surely one of the industry’s biggest failings. In the grip of a skills shortage, can we afford to engage women in construction so poorly?

The revealing study was undertaken as part of One Way’s ongoing #GirlsAllowed campaign. In bringing together construction and education stakeholders, One Way hope to encourage more women to enter into the industry. Here, education is key – though the overwhelming majority (83%) of survey respondents feel construction career education in schools is sorely lacking. If women are to play a greater role, girls will need to be engaged at grassroots level.

But, somewhat reassuringly, more than 80% of those surveyed agreed that they would personally get involved in an initiative to help address the lack of women in construction.

Discussing the findings, Paul Payne – Managing Director of One Way – commented: “What is clear from these results is that employers need to do more to both attract more women into the industry and embrace them once on board. The results of the survey clearly demonstrate that the sector has a bad reputation when it comes to hiring females and given the severity of existing skills shortages, this simply cannot continue. While we were expecting to find low levels of employment, some of the figures were certainly below our initial perceptions, which makes the need for greater collaboration through initiatives such as the #GirlsAllowed campaign more vital now than they have ever been.”

Paul continued: “While it’s great to see so many respondents commit to taking more action, there were some concerning views that came to light that I feel need to be altered immediately. Aside from some of the gender stereotyping comments, other remarks suggested that some in the industry itself don’t think construction is a sector that women should be in. This is quite simply untrue and is an attitude myself and the team at One Way certainly want to turn around.”

There’s a long road ahead. In a sector still entrenched in machismo, perhaps a change in culture is necessary. But, given the appropriate steps, construction can become the inclusive industry it so desperately needs to be.

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