Gender data shows construction still has work to do

Gender data
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Construction has worked hard to attract more females into the industry. Ahead of International Women’s Day, Kris Hudson looks at whether this is working.

The construction industry will be marking International Women’s Day this month with a degree of celebration, but also keen awareness that there remains a lot more to be done to achieve greater diversity across the sector.

Construction as a whole continues to lag significantly behind other industries. Based on data from the Office of National Statistics from the third quarter of last 2022, women make up 47.6% of the overall UK workforce.

When employment is broken down by industry, construction sits last, with only 14.7% of those employed in the industry being women, 32.9 percentage points lower than the UK average (see chart below).

Gender data
Source: Office for National Statistics

The industry can take some comfort that progress has nonetheless been made and the trend is moving – slowly – in the right direction. Over the last 10 years the number of women as a proportion of the overall construction workforce has increased by 36.9% (see chart below).

Work still to be done

These data sets are important to help industry leaders understand the direction of travel and they underscore the work that is still to be done. However, it’s important to understand their limitations. Most importantly, these statistics only cover a narrow range of construction-related work based on the Standard Industry Classification (SIC) 2007 definitions. They don’t cover related professions within the delivery of construction work. 

Gender data
Source: Office for National Statistics

The picture of construction and development-related professional services and management roles is overall more positive. Here 39.4% of architectural and town planning technicians are women, compared to 34.5% of town planning officers, and 29.9% of those in estimation, valuation and assessment roles (see chart below).

The available data reinforces that the industry needs to keep focusing on the issue of diversity. As the nature of construction work gets more complex with new tools and ways of working, alongside a persistent labour shortage, attracting a diverse and inclusive talent pool becomes ever more important.

Source: National Online Manpower Information Service

The best and brightest should see a future in construction and, with the sector needing to form the backbone of a greener and more productive society, tapping into this diverse pool of potential will be vital. 

Kris Hudson is an economist and associate director at Turner & Townsend.

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