Constructing the Future – Women in STEM

15th November 2018

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Whilst the construction industry is making strides in encouraging women to join, recent reports show that we still have a way to go.

According to the Office of National Statistics, women make up just 13% of the construction workforce.  Although this number has increased slowly over the last 10 years, it is still considerably further behind other traditionally male dominated professions, such as finance, which is approaching a 50/50 split between men and women.

The recent Women in Construction report by global recruitment firm Randstad  highlighted that even for those women employed in the industry, things can be tough.  The gender pay gap is a reality, with women on average being paid 14% less than their male counterparts, a gap which rises to 22% as they move into more senior roles.

Many of those surveyed reported to have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace, particularly relating to promotions, and felt excluded from male dominated networking and social events.

However, progress is being made.  Some companies are working to redress the balance by doing outreach work in schools, promoting the appointment of senior female executives, and attempting to remove gender bias from the recruitment process.

2017 saw more women than ever entering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) apprenticeship roles, and Randstand’s research indicates that one in every five construction board members is a woman.

Campaigns such as Women in STEM  and the WISE Campaign have been established to assist in closing the gender gap in STEM.

Soben works closely with Ayrshire College, which is an advocate of encouraging women into STEM, actively engaging with young women to encourage them to consider a career in construction.  Soben director Andrew Gallacher recently presented the college’s HNC Quantity Surveying Student of the Year Award to mature student and mother, Lorna Jane Sullivan.

Janice Steel, Capital Projects Manager at Ayrshire College explained; “As part of Scottish Funding Council’s requirements Ayrshire College must produce as part of their Strategic Operational Plan a Gender Action Plan, which highlights our approach for addressing the gender imbalance within certain Curriculum subject areas.

“Construction is one such area which has seen a steady increase of females over the past five years. This is down to more awareness through events aimed at targeting females in the construction area – one of which is a Girls into Construction event which will be led by female role models for Secondary 1st and 2nd year girls and our Ayrshire Connects which encourages females into STEM courses and those that are within STEM subject to stay and encourage others.

“It is also worth noting the lack of female returners within construction. Flexible working/part time/job sharing is a big issue for our industry and one which we should be considering to help increase the gender imbalance.  The amount of females that have left the industry to raise a family and don’t come back is quite worrying and one which we should be targeting not only for imbalance but for the overall skills shortage.”