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The construction industry is typically dominated by men, it is time to change this and give women a well deserved seat at the table.

In 2024, the lack of representation for women in construction is concerning, with employees facing unconscious bias from senior management and candidates not even making it to an interview due to their gender, drastic action therefore needs to be taken.

With only 15.8% of the total construction workforce being female, whilst it is positive to see the number increasing slightly year on year, the growth needs to be exponentially quicker.

Women are continuing to fight biases and break glass ceilings to showcase the fact that they deserve a place in this male dominated industry. We hear from some amazing women in this article such as a ‘BBC The Apprentice’ finalist who faced unconscious bias and founded her own construction company due to this, and a Go Construct STEM Ambassador who provides insights on how companies can encourage women into the industry and furthermore, how they can make them stay by feeling safe and respected by their peers. 

Companies have a vital role to play when it comes to encouraging and developing women in the industry. The marginalised industry may be daunting to some women, so it is important for companies to highlight the steps they are taking to ensure and maintain equality and diversity in the workplace.

It is not simply all about getting women into the industry, it is about retaining them. Your company should offer training and support and the necessary benefits to allow female employees to feel safe, comfortable and valued, but also able to flourish.

Research from Constructing Excellence highlights that only 15% of the construction industry allows female workers more than 18 weeks’ statutory maternity leave, Glazing Vision are pleased to offer 52 weeks maternity leave to all female staff whether they are in full-time or part-time employment.

Glazing Vision has a strong commitment to women in construction/engineering, we understand the impact that they can make, therefore Glazing Vision is passionate about recruiting and training female engineers and wider office staff.

We have a close working relationship with numerous local education establishments to actively encourage young people, especially young women, into the industry. 

Our Group Managing Director, Jon Shooter, gives his full support to the onboarding and development of women in construction and comments; “I am so proud that we have recruited and developed female engineers that are flourishing in their careers. Furthermore we work with UTCN in Norwich and help encourage both male and female young adults to choose a career in engineering.

We now have more women in production than ever before, long may it continue”

We are always eager to learn and develop our HR support and offerings, so we sat down with Kinga Zadora, Go Construct STEM Ambassador, to explore her views on how companies should support women in the industry.

When asked about the steps that employers should take, Kinga commented; “To support women in the construction industry, employers must actively work to create an environment that embraces diversity and equality. This involves recognising and addressing the challenges women face, including stereotypes and biases that may hinder their advancement. Employers can play a crucial role in promoting inclusivity by implementing policies and practices that foster equal opportunities, such as promoting flexible work arrangements and providing mentorship programs tailored to the needs of women in construction. Additionally, offering diversity training to staff can help raise awareness of unconscious biases and promote a more supportive workplace culture. By taking these steps, employers can contribute to creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment where women can thrive and succeed in construction roles.”

The Impact Of Early Life Interest

For many children, their upbringing and influences in their early years can really shape who they become in the future and the path that they choose to take. 

Encouraging your young daughter to assist with minor ‘DIY’ jobs around the house or watch television programmes based around construction may naturally pique her interest in an industry that she may not receive regular exposure to.

Construction can easily be incorporated into learning through play with children, however it is evident that even at an early age, girls are less exposed to this than boys of their age.

According to a recent study conducted by UNESCO, parents of girls tend to focus on singing rhymes, writing letters and drawing shapes as opposed to parents of boys who focus more on construction toys and building blocks. The study highlights that 67% of boy parents focus on this as opposed to 58% of girl parents.

Education, throughout high school, college and university, can play a vital role in the volume of women who consider a career in construction later in life.

This is the case for women in engineering too, with the organisation EngineeringUK highlighting the decline of interest as girls make their way through the education system.

This could be down to less girls being encouraged to take part in extracurricular STEM activities or being actively discouraged from studying engineering based degrees at university.

The organisation has highlighted: 

  • 46.4% of girls 11-14 would consider a career in engineering, compared to 70.3% of boys
  • 42.0% of girls 14-16 would consider a career in engineering compared to 66.0% of boys
  • 25.4% of girls 16-18 would consider a career in engineering compared to 51.9% of boys

Educational Focus: University Technical College Norfolk

As previously highlighted, education can play a vital role in encouraging women into the industry.

One educational institution, local to Glazing Vision, that is passionate about helping young women enter the industry is University Technical College Norfolk (UTCN)

Glazing Vision has worked with UTCN on numerous occasions, including inviting alumni to our HQ in Diss for a factory tour.

When asked about how the specialist college encourages young women into construction Izzy Lerpiniere, Marketing and Outreach Coordinator, commented; “At UTCN, we foster collaboration with employers to facilitate the entry of young women into the construction industry through various initiatives. UTCN has established partnerships with leading employers within the STEM industry, who provide our female students with practical experience and exposure to the construction industry. We organise regular careers and networking events to connect female students with potential employers within STEM industries, allowing them to explore diverse roles within the construction sector. Employers can get involved with invaluable mentorship programmes, offering support to young women as they navigate their careers through a traditionally male-dominated field. Collaboration between employers and education providers like UTCN can break down barriers, promote inclusivity, and empower young women to pursue successful careers in construction.”

The Challenges Faced By Women in Construction

Even whilst women are in the industry, it is dishearteningly evident that they face discrimination and challenges that men do not.

Due to negative stereotypes that have been around for many years, employers may display unconscious bias when it comes to recruiting women, or colleagues of these women may have unconscious bias towards them and their perceived abilities, extensive work needs to be undertaken to remove this bias and allow women to feel confident and empowered in their positions.

To understand the challenges that women in construction face, we sat down with Michaela Wain, BBC The Apprentice Finalist & Owner of Design and Build UK. Michaela provided insights into her experience in the industry, and an example of unfair bias that she experienced and how this motivated her in starting her own establishment; Design and Build UK.

“My experience in the industry has been overall an extremely positive one, I have been able to start and scale several companies within this sector, and the majority of my clients are male. That being said, the reason I initially started my own company is due to the fact that I hit a glass ceiling, I was told that I need not apply for a Sales Manager role as they were looking for an older man, this is despite the fact that I had exponentially grown their company, I think at the time this was not intentional discrimination but an unconscious bias, this led me to starting Design and Build UK and on a journey to help other women to speak up and out. 

I have experienced unconscious bias and condescending comments throughout my career, I learnt to take this on the chin and move past this when I was younger, as I have settled and matured in my role as Managing Director I now have the confidence to call out such bias and ensure people understand why I may take issue with being called young lady, or simply ignored when speaking to myself and my male counterpart. 

The industry is a brilliant place to work, ever changing, fast paced and loads of fun, but we do need more women in the industry not only to help close the skills gap shortage but also to create diversity of thought and a more welcoming environment for other women.”

Women can face many challenges, especially when starting out in the industry, due to the stereotypes that have been instilled from generation to generation.

The stereotype that women are not as strong as men is untrue, they are capable of completing manual labour, and should not be seen as weaker. 

Many women in construction find that a lot of the time, they are the only female on site or on their team, this could lead to increased levels of sexual harassment and verbal abuse. Employers must take this issue seriously and implement bullying and harassment policies to ensure that all employees, not just female ones, feel safe in their place of work.

Workplace Safety For Women in Construction

A key focus subject for Women in Construction Week is workplace safety, and it is a well established fact that construction can be a dangerous industry if precautions are not executed, Glazing Vision takes the health and safety of all employees extremely seriously, employing a dedicated Quality, Health, Safety and Environment (QHSE) team to manage this day in day out.

When asked about how we manage female safety at Glazing Vision, Michelle Rolph, QSHE Manager, commented; “There’s no difference” is perhaps not the expected opening to an article about Women in Construction, or is it?  At Glazing Vision, the recruitment culture is such that the best person for the job is appointed and over the last few years that has meant an increase in women across all roles, from sales, project management, design and engineering, health and safety and in our manufacturing team.  Women are here and we are here to stay!

Happily, the women at Glazing Vision are treated no differently to our male colleagues, hence the opening line of ‘there’s no difference’.  Workplace safety is about exactly that, people’s safety, and everyone is treated exactly the same. That’s a truly fantastic statement to make and is a clear credit to the company direction and leadership.  It’s also credit to the training and development offered to staff so that we all feel empowered to carry out our jobs to the very best of our ability and understand our limits, no matter who we are.”

What Are The Next Steps?

It is disheartening to still see the lack of representation for women in the male dominated industry, we are glad that there has been an evident uptake in recent years, however there needs to be consistent work carried out to accelerate this upward trend.

Humans love having someone to look up to, who can provide positive advice and inspiration, it is important that women in your organisation have a female employee who they can look up to and feel truly inspired by.

As previously mentioned by our QHSE Manager, Michelle, “There’s no difference” do not feel overwhelmed or intimidated when recruiting and onboarding women into your construction establishment, they do not need specific special treatment, they need to be treated with respect and dignity, organisations such as STEM Women can provide employers with support if required.

To discuss our recruitment processes and policies, or even our current vacancies, please get in touch with our team. Explore our rooflight and roof window offerings today.