The construction industry is still widely dominated by men, but what can you do to open the sector up to women? Here, Kelly Friel, Digital Product Manager at industrial tools retailer Zoro, explains what you can do to attract more women to your construction roles.

Women make up just 11% of the construction workforce, according to research conducted by WISE. But in a sector that’s already suffering from a wide-ranging skills shortage, the lack of women in the field means that you’re missing out on some very valuable skill sets. But what can you do to help attract more women to your construction roles? Below, I’ll be outlining just some of the ways we can make the industry more appealing to female tradespeople.  

Celebrate women already in the industry

A lot of the stigma around the construction sector starts early on. Many young girls are put off the idea of entering the field because it’s been dominated by men for years and they feel unwelcome. But we need to normalise the idea of women in these kinds of roles and teach girls that it is an option for them, too.

One way you can encourage young women to aspire to a career in construction is by celebrating and promoting the women already in the industry. These women can serve as role models for younger generations of female construction workers. So, you could attend schools as guest speakers to encourage young women to enter the sector and show them that they’ll be accepted into the role. This will also help to demonstrate that there are more than just manual labour roles in construction that girls can apply for.

Take a look at your job adverts

You might not realise it, but women could be put off applying for your roles simply due to the language you use in your job descriptions. A lot of employers have found that the language they use can have an unconscious leaning towards masculine traits, and therefore causes a gender bias in the application process.

Just last year, the trade and construction industry as a whole showed a significant gender bias in its job adverts, favouring masculine language over more feminine or neutral language (Adzuna). Try changing ‘tradesman’ to ‘tradesperson’ and avoiding terminology which would suggest strength and power. Words such as “determined”, “dominant” or “strong” show a strong male bias, according to research from the American Psychological Association. These kinds of words may give female applicants the idea that they’re not suited to the role or won’t belong. Instead, you could use words like “committed” or “leading” which are much more neutral and are more likely to attract women.

Review and update workplace policies

Another reason the construction sector is often avoided by women is the worry that they won’t be accepted by their male colleagues. It’s wise to review and update your workplace policies to ensure that all staff are aware of the importance of diversity in the workplace and that discrimination will not be tolerated.

It’s also important that you offer support alongside training to generate a positive working culture. All workers need to know that their issues will be listened to and dealt with, but this is even more important for female staff — especially in an industry where they’re probably going to be a minority.

Allow for equal opportunities

You’ll also need to be making sure that you’re offering equal opportunities for female staff, from construction leadership roles to site managers. The opportunity to progress needs to be open to both men and women. Not only will this encourage female construction workers to aim for those higher roles, but it will also help you retain the highly skilled female staff who see an opportunity to go further.

Bridge the gender pay gap 

The gender pay gap is an ongoing issue in any area, but the construction sector is one of the worst offenders, with a 41% pay gap between male and female construction and building trades supervisors (Office for National Statistics). 

You need to be making sure that all of your staff, both male and female, are being paid the equally for the same work. This will show your female employees that they’re valued just as much as their male equivalents and you’re more likely to attract even more women to your roles.

There is clearly still a long way to go to bring more women into the construction sector. To bridge the gap, the advice in this guide can help you attract more women to your roles and take the step towards gender parity in the workplace.

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