What is the Gender Pay Gap?
If you are a woman in construction, many of the recent articles and data on the Gender Pay Gap for 2019, will have been a cause for serious concern - although not a surprise. Construction companies employing 250 people or more have been sharing details on how much they pay in salaries and bonuses to staff with the UK Government since last year.
The pay gap between the genders is one of the largest of all sectors. A report by the Guardian newspaper reports that for every £1 that men earn in construction, women earn just 72p. Women earn 90p per £1 in real estate, 97p in Health and Social Services and 99p in Accommodation and Food Services.
While the Gender Pay Gap measures the difference in the average hourly salary difference between men and women the data does not tell the whole story. It does reflect the incredibly low number of women across all levels and most professions in the sector.
Why does it matter and what is the impact?
Construction has been struggling with the issue of diversity overall for decades and in particular the exceptionally low numbers of women in leadership for the sector.
For construction overall, only 12% of the sector’s labour force is female, with less than 1% in trade and craft roles and 27% in the professions.
However, gender is just one of the areas where construction doesn’t reflect the demographic make-up of society. Reports into disability and ethnicity note significant pay gaps which can only mean that workers who reflect more than one diverse characteristic can be hit from more than one side when it comes to remuneration.
Diversity is not the only issue that the sector is struggling with, it is also suffering from skills gaps, with more people due to leave the industry through retirement etc. than are willing to join it.
If construction is to tackle skills gaps it must address the perception that an individual’s background is more likely to impact career advancement than their ability and experience to do the job.
So what could be done to address it?
I believe that there are two key areas where construction can make a difference in both the skills and diversity gaps.
Flexibility as standard - at present the industry works very much along the same lines as it has done for decades. Jobs and tasks are delineated by discipline, and full time working is the default for the majority. While there has been much progress in the technology to speed up processes and enable some people to work remotely, this has not resulted in significant agile working in construction. It’s important that companies not only offer flexible opportunities as a standard but that they also promote their support for flexible working.
Addressing talent recognition - One of the reasons business leaders give for the lack of inclusive leadership is that they can’t find the talent. However, I meet far too many talented and diverse individuals who are working in companies at a level of responsibility that is below their title and their pay level. Often they are “acting up” (i.e doing the work of someone at a higher level without official recognition) or they are the people who don’t fit the organisation’s view on what a leader should look or sound like. Construction companies need to take action, by reviewing their progression and promotion practices and addressing the habits and traditions which may be blocking the progress of diverse talent.