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How to fill the gender gap in the construction industry

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How to fill the gender gap in the construction industry

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The construction industry is one of the largest top job-generating industries in our country. And it’s also the second most male dominated (behind mining). According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), just 27% of the workforce are women.

To increase this number, changes need to be made. Attracting, retaining, and supporting women are priorities organisations need to embrace. 

And while it’s easier said than done, there are many ways to ensure we close the gender gap and become champions of change.  

Where are the women?

With women only making up a quarter of the workforce, the number is significantly smaller for those in leadership positions. Recent findings from WGEA observed only 10% heads of construction businesses are female, and just 4.4% of CEOs are women. 

So why is this the case? We explore the main barriers for women in construction below:

  1. Lack of awareness in high school: The construction industry isn’t traditionally one seen as a viable option for female high school students. However, what they don’t realise is that there’s a diverse scope of jobs under the construction umbrella. 

  2. Fewer career development opportunities: Women in the construction industry typically hold roles related to HR, admin, and support roles, and are rarely hired in senior management positions. Because of this, there are fewer female role models. This makes mentoring and job shadowing difficult for other females.

  3. Inflexible working practises: Construction workers hold the title for working the longest hours in Australia, causing challenges for females striving to balance parental duties and work. Unfortunately, this means women are often overlooked for roles in construction, as they can’t commit to the hours like their male counterparts.

Benefits of a diverse workforce

In our current skills shortage landscape, valuing and encouraging a diverse workforce is essential. The reality is, organisations that don’t value diversity are foregoing the opportunity to hire top-tier talent and skilled professionals. In addition, having a gender-balanced workforce means there are broader ideas and solutions, as well as fresh approaches and strategies.

Apart from organisations having access to a larger talent pool, a diverse workforce can:

  • improve productivity and economic growth

  • increase organisational performance, and

  • enhance a company’s reputation and brand image

Ways to fill the gender gap

According to Infrastructure Australia, 105,000 additional workers are going to be required by 2023 to deliver the government’s multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects across the country. This presents a great opportunity for organisations to take steps to build and strengthen gender equality within the sector.

Some initiatives can include:

  1. Focusing on diversity during the recruitment process: When advertising job roles, avoid gendered wording. Use inclusive job descriptions and female-oriented words such as ‘support’ and ‘caring’. You can also promote your organisation as one with an inclusive culture by discussing ways you value diversity. 

  2. Offering flexibility: You can help rebalance the industry by offering greater flexibility in the workplace. And men want this too! Offering job sharing, paid parental leave, and childcare rebates are just some initiatives to consider.

  3. Creating fair compensation: The construction industry has the largest gender pay gap, coming in at 30.6% – an increase of 2.6% from last year. Women are also less likely to advance their careers compared to men. It’s imperative for organisations to provide equal opportunities through a transparent rewards system and ensure pay scales are based on qualifications and not gender.

  4. Empowering female workers with soft skills training: Founder and Chairperson of Awesome Women in Construction, Amanda Bulow, explains that women have a difficult time realising their own self-confidence and self-worth. Soft skills training for women in construction will enable them to gain more confidence in a male-dominated industry and empower them to negotiate a more supportive workplace. 

In summary

While we are making strides towards equality, there’s still much more we can do to bridge the gender gap in construction. Organisations can be the champions of change by ensuring workplaces are safe, rewarding, and welcoming for women.

With the industry being at the centre of significant government stimulus, this will not only benefit women. It will also harness the power of a wider talent pool and be an attractive career option for all.



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