UK

Women In Construction: Third Fear Sexism Will Hold Them Back From Top Jobs

But there's optimism on closing the gender pay gap.

27/07/2017 03:17 BST | Updated 27/07/2017 11:21 BST
shironosov via Getty Images
New research has revealed optimism among construction workers in closing the industry's gender pay gap

Almost a third of women working in construction fear sexism will hold them back from the industry’s top jobs, new research has found.

Around 40 percent of male workers said they thought men were better suited to construction, the study found.

But the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors (RICS), which carried out the research, said the findings also revealed optimism that the industry’s gender pay cap could soon be lower than the national average.

Nearly half of the 1,000 people surveyed thought the gap in salaries would be below 15% by 2018.

Sean Tompkins, chief executive of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors said: “Today’s findings highlight that achieving gender equality in the construction sector requires significant commitment from organisations.”

Sophie Smith
Building surveyor Sophie Smith said construction firms need to work extra hard to get women involved

Sophie Smith, a building surveyor, told HuffPost UK that women might not be aware of the varied roles available in construction.

“Young people tend to know what a builder and an architect is but not what’s in between,” she said. “For me I did a bit of research and thought building surveying would be the job for me - I wanted something different every day.”

Smith said that when she began working on sites ten years ago, she noticed specialist safety equipment would come in men’s or unisex sizes, potentially making women feel out of place.

“I did feel that there was a discrimination in little things and that’s when I first felt ‘oh, I don’t feel like I fit in’,” she said. “You’d go to the cupboard and the jackets would be so big it was probably unsafe.”

You've got to work extra hard to get women involved

She’s since worked with suppliers to develop women’s sizes and even a dedicated safety shoe for women.

“You’ve got to work extra hard to get women involved and get that diversity,” Smith adds.

“But perhaps it’s not sexism, perhaps it’s people just not knowing what roles are out there in the first place.

“The work we’re doing now might take years to have an effect - I’m talking to primary school pupils.”

Tompkins added: “People often come at tackling diversity from the perspective of it is an issue to be addressed.

“RICS believes it should be approached from the other way round; diversity and an inclusive culture where you feel entirely comfortable being yourself in the workplace has to be embedded as part of your business strategy.”

The new research comes after the publication of the BBC ‘rich list’ exposed a shocking gender pay cap among its best paid stars.