On the 6th February this year (2018) the UK celebrates the 100th anniversary of arguably the most significant moment in the UK’s gender equality plight; the introduction of the Representation of the People Act 1918 which allowed women in the UK the right to vote.
A century later, where great progress has been made in elevating standards in many areas of life, gender disparity still continues – particularly, when it comes to the construction industry.
Jo Hankinson, HR Business Partner at Aggregate Industries, comments: “There is no doubt that gender equality is on the up; women typically perform better at school than their male counterparts, make up almost half of the UK workforce, own more businesses than ever before and sit on the boards of many of the largest companies.
“Yet, there is still a massive job to be done in ensuring women are given the same rights and opportunities as men – particularly when it comes to the scale of male dominance in our sector which is, largely, due to some outdated attitudes and companies not always doing enough to attract women.”
According to the most recent official statistics1 for 2016, 87.6% of total construction workers in the UK were men, whilst 12.4% were women. In 2007, historical data shows that men accounted for 87.5% of the total construction workforce and women accounted for 12.5%, thus suggesting that the gender ratio has remained largely unchanged.
The common consensus is this imbalance starts in the classroom, with girls traditionally discouraged from entering what are perceived to be more ‘manly’ physical occupations and therefore less inclined to enrol in Science, Engineering, Technology and Maths (STEM) subjects. For others, however, the problem lies in the ‘Big Boys Club’ culture which still thrives in pockets of the industry, often acting as a deterrent for women.
Yet, at the same time the need for a female talent injection has never been greater as the construction sector continues to face an escalating skills shortage, with 62 per cent of firms reporting recruitment problems last year.
Jo adds: “It’s disappointing to think that, despite all the fantastic advancements that have been made in our exciting, evolving sector over the past decades, we still haven’t conquered the gender issue.
“Therefore as we look to the future, it is vital that progress is made in order to not just ensure a more ethical approach and bridge the skills gap, but to enhance our offer. After all, gender equality isn’t just about a ‘tick in the box’ – it has been proven that having a more diverse and inclusive workforce can help achieve a higher return on equity and better financial performance by strengthening an organisation’s intellectual capacity.
“Our hope then is that we can come together as an industry to finally break down the gender barrier in order to ensure a buoyant, fruitful and exciting industry for all.”
Aggregate Industries continues to invest in its diversity and inclusion programme in order to ensure a more balanced workforce – with a particular focus on attracting more women. Currently, the business’ workforce population is made up of 84 per cent males and 16 per cent females. However, as part of a wider diversity and inclusion strategy, Aggregate Industries is committed to achieving a 20 per cent gender balance by 2020 and a 30 per cent gender balance by 2030.