If the number of women in the construction industry has increased, their proportion has fallen. Many people consider construction historically, as well as today, to be a non-traditional occupation for women.
It is the most male-dominated major industry in Australia, where the proportion of women working in the sector has fallen over the past 20 years. According to the Australian Government Workplace Gender Equality Agency, women represented 12% of the workforce in the construction industry in 2018, while they were 13.8% in 1998.
However, the construction industry is a dynamic market. And, there is an increasing demand for new housing and infrastructure projects. So, it is important to encourage more women to join the workforce. Also, to help bridge the skills gap, as well as really integrate them in the construction world. Australian female construction apprentices have more than doubled from 2010 to 2020.
But, women in construction are still facing issues. For instance, regarding available opportunities, job satisfaction, equal compensation and acceptance as professionals. Yet, there are ways to both recruit and retain women for careers in construction.
As a female-founded business, we are particularly sensitive to this topic. So, in this blog post, the team at Absolute Traffic Management shares the advantages for a business to be inclusive and have a diverse workforce. And, we share tips on how the construction industry can expand its female workforce.
Women Working In Construction Was Something Socially Unacceptable
Although construction was a major economic factor in medieval and early modern Europe, there are limited references to women‘s role in these activities. But, there is evidence that women were working on construction sites and in the building trades in earlier historical periods. However, it was socially unacceptable to record this labor as work, especially if women were earning a wage.
The male-dominant society perceived women as physically incapable of heavy labor. And, their primary duty was to take care of the family. Indeed, for the society at that time, women should not accept wages for their work. Because the males in the family were the ones providing for the family.
There is some limited evidence of women working in construction in the ancient world. But, one of the earliest written records is from the 13th century in Spain.
Today, women continue to build their path in the industry. And, they fight against (unconscious) gender bias, lack of adequate training, and the overall perceptions of women working in the industry. As a result, in the last five years, the number of women in construction increased by 34%.
A Commercial And Moral Imperative To Integrate Women in Construction
Fortunately, times have changed. And, the society recognises that bringing in and promoting more women at all levels can help businesses win more contracts and boost capabilities.
Integrating women in your construction company is an opportunity to get closer to customers, enhance your reputation and win more business. Consequently, construction is not only open to women, it is in NEED of them.
Women Bridge Skills Gaps And Ensure The Health Of The Industry
First of all, there is a construction trades skills shortage. In fact, more than 60% of construction trade vacancies need candidates in Victoria and New South Wales. And, in 2018 there were about 5 applications per job offer, of those 1.5 were qualified, 0.5 were suitable for the role and more than 70% of qualified applicants were unsuitable.
The demand for construction trades workers is strong, especially in NSW. However, fewer people are choosing to learn construction skills due to negative stereotypes and the push for young people to study longer. People either don’t want to work in the building crafts or don’t know that it is a viable option that offers rewarding careers.
Consequently, recruiting, training and supporting women in construction is necessary to ensure the long-term health of the industry.
Businesses With More Women Reflect Consumer Expectations Better
According to a survey of Australian real estate firm directors, women have “the greatest say in the choice of property”.
This means that construction businesses with more women in their management team can better understand and respond to what is driving these decisions.
Move Towards Tendering For Public Contracts
Promoting gender equality in Australian workplaces is a statutory Government priority via the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).
Prior to making a submission in response to an approach to the market, potential suppliers must be covered under the WGE Act that proves your organisation is a ‘relevant employer’ and submit a letter of compliance.
Boosting Innovation and Productivity
Diversity increases productivity. A diverse workforce brings new ideas, experiences and perspectives. Australian construction businesses need people qualified in sustainable development and who harness new technology.
Inclusivity Benefits Everyone
The new graduates are seeking out inclusive organisations. More women in construction means more productivity due to new ideas being brought forward. Diversity drives profitability and answers the problem of labor shortage.
How The Construction Industry Can Expand Its Female Workforce
Include Women In The Company Culture Of Construction Businesses
More than a third of women working in the construction, property and engineering (CPE) sector feel that a lack of gender diversity and the workplace culture that stems from this imbalance deter women from entering the industry or make them want to leave.
It is time to challenge stereotypes and shift perceptions. Only few young women see construction as an aspirational career but it seems that it is progressing. Schools need to keep highlighting the value of construction jobs for women.
Also, just search for “construction work” on Google and you’ll see that a lot of the people on the images are still male. But, careers in construction are not just reserved for men. Jobs are for people and companies just need to train the right ones, regardless of gender.
Give Women A Fair Chance With New Opportunities In The Construction Industry
Many women aren’t given a fair chance with new opportunities. 30% working in CPE report they’ve been passed over for a promotion or senior leadership position because of their gender, rather than as a reflection of their skills. Selection for jobs and promotions is often based on who you know rather than what you know, with women largely excluded from these informal networks.
A study carried out by the University of New South Wales found that in construction, while men’s capabilities are assumed, women’s capabilities are frequently questioned and women need to demonstrate they are better, not just equal to men. Companies need to focus on rewarding and promoting individuals based on results, rather than perpetuating a gender bias.
While the industry has improved, there are still more efforts to do to erase gender discrimination in the workplace:
– 60% of the women have experienced gender discrimination in the construction workplace at least once.
– 37% of female workers have experienced inappropriate behaviour from a male colleague.
– 20% have also felt excluded from male conversations and social events.
Sort Out Working Conditions For Everyone
Family-friendly, flexible working is often dismissed as inappropriate on a 7am-4pm site. Though even on a building site, there is no reason why some posts can’t be carried out on a shared or staggered hour basis or allow for parental leave.
Many rigid working practices within construction are rooted in culture rather than any practical imperative. Flexible working isn’t just an issue for working parents, but a desirable and efficient approach for the entire workforce.
The Construction Industry Offers Great Opportunities
A Growing Presence of Technology
Construction is no longer all about manual labor and the idea that women are not physically strong enough to work in it.
The growing presence of technology creates many new job opportunities that women may excel at, plus there are managerial positions available such as project managers, crew foreman, safety managers and more.
A Rewarding Career
Construction businesses provide well-paid jobs that do not all require a college degree. And, the gender wage gap in construction is more narrow than for women in the general workplace.
Careers in construction can also offer women job security, competitive benefits, paid vacation and the satisfaction of building something that really matters to the communities in which they live.
Improvement And Discussion For Women In Construction
Despite the difficulties and barriers for success, women have been involved in construction throughout history. And the social, legal and policy efforts in the last few decades created an environment of improvement and discussion for women in construction.
Perhaps the following quote from a woman in construction summarizes it well [Hopkins and McManus, 1998]: “The construction industry in the past 25 years has gone from a “good ole boy” regime to cutting edge technology. With that major revolution, the industry has become more and more color blind and indifferent to gender.
The “bottom line” is crucial for survival in the 90‘s and beyond. The uphill fight isn‘t over yet. But women now can expect and demand to move up in their career path. Our industry is fast paced, challenging, exciting, never boring, and fun!! I would encourage any woman to consider a career in construction.”
Absolute Traffic Management: An Advocate For Construction And Women In Construction
To sum up, there is still a lot to do to fully include women in construction. At Absolute Traffic Management, as a female-managed business, we are part of the thousands of Australian women at the forefront of a change rippling through a traditionally male-dominated industry.
We take the lead in addressing these issues and advocating for women in the construction industry. Above all, we do not tolerate disrespect towards any gender. In addition, we provide discounts on courses, participate in events (conferences, entrepreneurs groups…), and encourage women to become role models for other women.
The construction industry becomes step by step a place where women can see opportunities and are supported. Are you a woman looking for work as a traffic controller? Then, get in touch for any question you may have.