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Women in the Construction Industry

It is the 21st century and women’s right are bigger and more prominent than ever, meaning you would expect an even gender distribution in all industries. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily true- particularly in the case of manual trades.

Within the construction industry, women only represent a meagre 12% of workers, with the number of women working as roofers, bricklayers and glaziers so low that it is unmeasurable. As well as the percentage of females in the industry being at a low, their pay is also less, at 12% fewer than their male counterparts, even those who do the exact same role.

As of December 2012, the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) has represented over 84,377 workers in the construction and allied trades, and as part of this, conducted a Union Modernisation Fund project “Building a Stronger Union.” Within this, they surveyed women construction workers to find out more about the challenges they face and to raise awareness of the issues amongst its male membership. The survey found that over half of the women were treated worse at work simply because of their gender, with the top three issues being a lack of promotion prospect, lower pay and feeling generally isolated from their male colleagues. Some 40% of those questioned identified bullying and harassment by managers as a problem, with 30% too afraid to complain about poor treatment.

As well as the above issues, a quarter complained of having to share toilet facilities with men and 15% of being unable to find properly fitting protective equipment.

However, there is beginning to be a shift in direction for women within the sector, with a number of programmes and organisations in place to try and increase the awareness of available positions. Companies such as this are “Class of Your Own” which is a programme to raise awareness of how young people can learn about and become involved in construction careers. The Construction Youth Trust is another initiative set up to help young people and particularly women in the construction industry. The charities vision is “of a construction industry which inspires and enables young people to overcome barriers and build better futures.”

A recent campaign set forth by the department for work and pensions was all about reiterating the importance of breaking down the gender barrier in male-dominated careers. The hashtag #notjustforboys went viral on social media sites with many companies professing their support.

Nickie Brooks, MD for Alternative Route said: “What with being in what can be perceived as a male-dominated industry myself, it is refreshing to see such a positive rise in the number of females adopting careers in these areas.”


Nickie Brooks is the Director of Alternative Route Finance, a fleet consultancy and vehicle leasing company.