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The number of women working in construction reaches new heights

Women could end up filling 50% of this much needed new workforce

Women could make up more than a quarter of the construction workforce by 2020 and could be instrumental in plugging the growing skills shortage, according to new research.

Women now account for a fifth of the UK construction workforce, but Randstad CPE’s latest Women in Construction Report revealed this figure is expected to rise to 26% in the next four years.

The UK currently needs an extra 300,000 new homes a year to keep up with population growth – which equates to an extra million workers.

Owen Goodhead, Randstad’s Construction, Property and Engineering MD, said:

“As we continue to move out of recession, the opportunities for growth in the sector are greater than ever before.

“There is a growing skills crisis but women are perfectly placed to help plug any shortages. They bring with them a diverse set of skills and talent which is of immense benefit to the construction industry as a whole.”

The industry has been working hard to dispel the myths and erode common masculine stereotypes thanks to a number of high profile government and company-led campaigns. As a result, women have experienced a 6% pay increase per year since 2005 and the numbers in senior management roles have risen from 6% to 16% in a decade.

Changing employer attitudes have helped more women into construction

Employers have also been working hard to change workplace environments and perceptions with almost half of women asked, describing their employer as either “extremely” or “very” supportive of female construction workers.

In 2005 the majority of women (79%) said their employer was doing nothing special to attract or promote women but a decade on this figure has now dropped to just 29%.

However, the number of women experiencing some form of prejudice has sadly grown from 66% to 74% and 11% of women still leave the industry because of discrimination.

When reflecting on the figures, Mr. Goodhead said:

“There is still work that needs to be done to eradicate outdated attitudes which have no place in a 21st Century workplace but employers are working hard on this, launching positive recruitment campaigns and listening to what their female staff has to say”.

More work needed to improve pay perceptions

Pay is also still a problem with 41% believing men are paid more. However, 79% of men believe they are paid equally. The industry also still lacks awareness with 43% of women citing that as the main reason they have not been attracted to a career in construction.

Lack of flexibility or part-time working was also one of the top factors for women either leaving the industry or being unable to return to it. However, Mr. Goodhead is optimistic that things will change and argues that childcare legislation, which comes into force next year, pay rises and greater promotional prospects will help encourage more women to return to the industry.

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