Are men better suited for construction?

Following the release of new research from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, there is a clear need for the industry to better confront gender being a factor in the workplace, writes Natasha Levanti.

Tackling diversity and inclusion in the construction sector has been a long-standing issue and according to new RICS data, the construction sector has a long way to go before gender is no longer a perceived factor in the workplace.

Sexism clearly remains as a serious issue, with 35% of respondents believing that men are better suited for construction skills. This has potential ramifications on all aspects of sectoral employment, from the interview and hiring process to retention as well as promotion in the workplace.

Sexism is solidified as a concern by nearly a third (30%) of female survey respondents who cite fears of sexism as holding them back from going for more senior roles in construction.

In order to encourage women into the industry, 38% of all respondents felt that companies are not doing enough to attract females into the sector, and 40% agreed that companies need to invest more into encouraging young people to pursue a career in construction, particularly young girls.

In addition to recruiting females into the industry, 42% believe that companies need to invest more within the training opportunities for existing female employees.

Sean Tompkins, chief executive of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), said: "The findings reveal that it is primarily the responsibility of individual organisations, to invest in schemes and nurture more inclusive cultures that support women to hold more senior roles in the construction industry.”

On a more positive note, the RICS data reveals that the construction sector believes the sector’s gender pay gap will be lower than the current national average. With the gender pay gap a rising concern among all UK industries, if the respondents' predictions are accurate, the UK’s construction industry could lead the charge towards parity of pay between genders.

In 2016 the national average pay gap was recorded at 18.1% in 2016. When questioned about the situation for construction in future, nearly half of all respondents (46%) felt that by April 2018 the gap will be under 15% for those in UK construction. A further 12% of respondents expressed belief that  there will be no gender pay disparity by April 2018. However, London respondents predict that the average pay gap will be 21% in April 2018.

This comes amid a drive for all employers with more than 250 staff to publish information on their gender pay gap, as required by law. When collected we will know if this perception is accurate.

For now one thing is absolutely certain and that is the need for individual organisations to step up their inclusivity efforts, not just to recruit more females into the profession but also to retain women already working in the industry.

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