Perceptions of the construction industry were once of a trade dominated by macho men wearing hard hats and muddy boots, with the onsite behaviour of some, tarnishing the sector’s reputation. Over the last 20 years, the sector has gone through many changes to improve its outlook in an attempt to attract more women to work in the industry.
Organisations such as the government supported Considerate Construction Scheme (CCS), have gone to great lengths to develop the status and practices of the construction industry. It focuses on areas of building activity that may have a direct or indirect impact on the image of the industry as a whole. According to the scheme’s chief executive, Edward Hardy, “The establishment takes a strong line on sexist and abusive behavior.” Mr Hardy explains that, “The action of the smallest minority of individuals undermines the efforts of the majority to improve the industry’s reputation.”
As time moves on, attitudes in the 21st Century, along with public perceptions are changing. Practices once seen as common place are today seen as socially unacceptable and have gradually disappeared among site workers but proportionally, women still only make up around 11% of the construction workforce.
Women are choosing to move into professions such as law and accountancy where the male to female ration is almost equal. But occupational sectors such as construction have not seen a corresponding change in the make-up of the workforce.
Issues Surrounding Recruiting More Women
A report published by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), looks at the prospects of attracting more women to the industry. It states that construction needs to appeal to young entrants as well as those returning to work following a career break after having children or those females in need of a career change.
The report disclosed that where UCAS has seen a rise in the number of women taking construction related degrees, these figures have not transferred into employment, even though there is a shortage of skilled people in the sector.
Some of the issues affecting the construction industry are: – getting qualified, transferring qualifications into employment, retention and career progression.
By far the biggest barrier for women entering into the construction sector appears to be maternity and child care benefits with only 15% of the construction industry giving female workers more than 18 weeks’ statutory maternity leave, compared with the national average of 27% which contributes to retention and career progression. Around 44% of females work part time in the UK but this figure is reduced to around 5% in construction.
The Way Forward
Last year the government launched a #notjustforboys campaign aimed to highlight issues surrounding getting more women to work in industries like construction where they are under- represented.
The campaign gave employers the opportunity to become a mentor as part of a new enterprise allowance scheme. Work experience placement or setting up a skills academy was also on offer, as well as advertising all vacancies with Jobcentre Plus.
For the construction industry to recruit more women, it needs to look at the prospects of offering ‘keep in touch days’ with employees on leave or assigning part-time projects of interest to them. Key incentives should be updating an employee’s skill sets, flexible working hours and offering a carers’ allowance system.
Induction of a new employee along with training, career development and promotion is more likely to improve retention levels. For women with a family part-time and flexible working is essential to balance work and family life.
According to Building.co.uk, Randstad Recruitment claims that if the right cultural change is chosen, the proportion of jobs held by female workers could exceed its 26% prediction by 2020.
The Midlands Construction Summit taking place 27 September 2016 at Ricoh Arena Coventry, will gather industry leaders and professionals together to confront these issues and to discuss how perceptions can be overcome to attract more women to the workforce.
Organised by the Built Environment Hub, this year the Midlands Construction Summit & Expo Summit is to be based around three interlinked key themes: Image, Skills and Productivity. Tickets cost just £95 plus vat and include; entry into the Midlands Construction Summit, entry into the Midlands Construction Expo, parking, lunch and refreshments throughout the event.
For more information, or to book your place, visit: www.midlandsconstructionsummit.co.uk