Do any of you follow @NobleFrancis on Twitter? If not, you should. He’s a fountain of knowledge and stats when it comes to UK construction. Go give him a follow if you’re not. It’s worth it.
At the start of the week he tweeted some stats which caught my eye. Not in a good way. Have a look:
Female employment in UK construction was 0.3 million, 6.8% higher than in Q3 but 1.3% lower than a year ago. Male employment in construction was 2.1 million, 2.2% higher than in Q3 & 3.9% higher than a year ago. #ukconstruction #gender #Employment https://t.co/O1YbkseIqY pic.twitter.com/NL4SjcW5lr— Noble Francis (@NobleFrancis) March 19, 2019
The progress of that blue line in the graph is highly disappointing. The red line, showing the number of men in UK construction has been on a steady rise. But, that rise appears to be insignificant, considering that the whole of the sector remains mired in a chronic skills shortage.
So, considering the hole the sector is in, and that includes UK fenestration, it’s scandalous that we haven’t addressed this huge gap which would have gone some way to addressing the skills gap altogether.
In 2019, when other parts of life are moving forwards progressively, we have to look at the reasons why there are so few women in UK construction, and how we can address it.
Pay gap, attitude, environment
Randstad have carried out a very useful report into women in UK construction in 2018, you can read it in full here: https://www.randstad.co.uk/employers/areas-of-expertise/construction-and-property/cpe_women-in-construction_2018_.pdf
If we’re going to look at the reasons why there is such a wide gap between the number of men and women in UK construction we need to have a look at the gender pay gap. An issue that has been very much in the spotlight in the past couple of years in the media.
In the Randstad report, they discovered that on average women were paid 14% less than men doing the same job. Lets be clear, if a man and a woman are doing the same job, same work, same hours, they should be paid exactly the same. No excuses. So if you were considering a career in UK construction and then found out that you were going to be paid 14% less than your peers doing the same job, then obviously that is going to cause you to think twice.
Next we have to look at attitudes of the entire sector. In the Randstad report, they observe that things like inappropriate comments from men, being overlooked for promotion and important projects combine to make an atmosphere that isn’t comfortable. Anyone working in any environment should always be made to feel welcome and at ease. It’s what makes us all work well, work productively and keep us happy. But, if UK construction is currently a place that isn’t welcoming to women, then such a large gap between the number of men and women in construction should not be a surprise.
To my memory, I cannot recall much of an effort from the wider construction sector, including fenestration, to make itself more appealing to female workers. In our own industry, female workers are in positions such as admin, sales, marketing, processing etc. There’s a disappointingly low number that are heads of businesses. And areas such as fabrication and installation are almost exclusively male dominated.
This is not an area we can afford to ignore. Our industry is suffering badly under a skills shortage. If we are to reverse this, we’re not going to do it by bringing in hoards of young people straight away. We need to look to the female workforce to help close that massive gap. The closing of that gap is important, but so is updating our industry to bring it firmly into the 21st century.
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