When we think of the construction industry we think of burly men in hi-vis yellow and blue tops with blue slacks. We certainly don’t think of women. That’s changing however with more and more women joining the construction industry however a study from UNSW has found that women only account for 17% of the workforce.
There are efforts to increase diversity within the construction industry with experts saying that a diverse workforce improves wellbeing. Unfortunately, though there are still barriers to women joining the hospitality industry. That’s despite businesses with a more diverse workforce outperforming those that don’t promote diversity. Businesses that have a diverse workforce better reflect the communities in which they operate so they are better able to service the needs of their clients and provide solutions that suit them.
The main barrier to women entering construction is the industry’s reputation. Currently, construction is seen as a man’s industry and women are discouraged from joining because of the perceived gender imbalance. With that gender imbalance comes a view that the culture isn’t supportive of women and that they won’t fit into the culture. They’re afraid that they might be subjected to sexism or treated unfairly by their male counterparts.
All industries have their cliques and circles. Typically business owners prefer to hire staff who have worked together before so if you’re new to the construction industry it’s going to be hard for you to find your way in.
In addition, construction industry workers face poorer mental health outcomes with high rates of suicide. This might be attributed to high pressure and a poor work-life balance. A workalike balance where you can still maintain your social, family, and personal commitments outside of work is vital for one’s wellbeing. Few companies offer employee benefits such as paid parental leave and are casual, so if you need security, the construction industry is tough. Targets have been set in these areas however so in time it looks like the situation may improve.
What many women may not know is that a career in the construction industry doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be on the ground building. You might work in compliance, risk assessment, marketing, business planning, architecture, or finance. There are so many options available to work in an industry that is ever-growing and evolving.
Government and industry are working together to encourage women to enter the sector so they’ve developed an initiative where they promote the construction industry to school-aged children and highlight the many benefits, one of which is that you get to play a part in a city’s ever-changing skyline. They’re also committed to promoting education and training throughout the ages.
The good news though is that these marketing plans to drive an increase in the number of women in the industry are working. At least that’s the case in the USA with more women working in the industry. Before they start though they are warned that things will be difficult for them and they may struggle. The future is also bright with more and more women in the classroom to learn about the construction industry. That means that although there is a stark contrast between the number of men and women, it may soon balance out.
Despite all the negative opinions about the construction industry and women being discouraged from joining, some women actually like working In the construction industry for a number of reasons.
Although fewer than 20% of the construction industry workforce is women, there are many reasons why women should join the industry. The major one is related to the gender pay gap. Women in the construction industry earn more than those in other industries. The average hourly rate is around $26 per hour however when you consider overtime and penalty rates it can be substantially more, giving women a chance to financially catch up to men.
Generally speaking, although the work can sometimes be casual, the hours are longer than in industries such as hospitality and retail so if you’re called up for a specific number of hours, you’re likely to work those hours. That gives you the security that other industries cannot offer. Some women say that the pay rates in the construction industry are excellent and that the pay gap simply does not exist, so if you work in the industry you will be treated equally with your male counterparts.
Construction has previously been viewed as an industry for men, however, that is changing with more women joining the industry than ever before. That means you will be working in an industry that is closer and closer to gender equality every day. When more women join the construction industry the culture improves because it greater reflects everyday Australian society and that means fresh perspectives are offered.
Not all construction industry jobs are on the frontline. There are a lot of jobs within sales, project management, and construction managers so there are a huge amount of opportunities for you to advance and progress in your career. Even if you’re working in the office, just knowing that the construction industry is attracting women could end up appealing to other women, increasing the percentage of women in the industry overall.
Many women who now work in the industry came from different backgrounds and say they fell into the industry.
One such woman had previously been working in the law industry and then became a recruiter for the construction industry before making a transition into quantity surveying. She has said she enjoys the industry and doesn’t regret making the switch.
Another was attracted to civil engineering because she enjoyed problem-solving, maths, and design aspects. When she finished her engineering degree she gained a job as an assistant engineer with a construction company. For her and others it is a very rewarding career because you literally get to see your work stand the test of time and you get to see it on your city’s skyline. Rather than an intangible result, there is a concrete result that’s been made possible because of teamwork.
Other women employed in the industry would give the following advice to those considering a construction industry career. The biggest piece of advice one woman gives is that although the face of the construction industry is changing, there may still be times when you’re the only woman attending a training session and that you should be aware of that because the more traditional members of the construction industry may doubt whether or not a woman is skilled enough for the role. Others suggest that if this is the case then you shouldn’t be intimidated and you should ask questions and participate in discussions when you want to and feel you have something valuable to offer.
The construction industry is currently evolving and there are so many training opportunities. With more women joining than ever before there has never been a better time to consider a career in the industry.
Written by Libby Shaw