Coates Hire celebrates the diversity of its people. Men and women are represented in our Senior Leadership Team and encouraged to participate in networking and mentoring activities. By actively seeking feedback from women on their experiences we strive to create equal opportunities and inclusive workplaces. Underpinning our focus on diversity, a strategy is being designed to help Coates Hire attract and retain a diverse workforce and support our people in achieving work and family balance.
 
But despite growing awareness and support for diversity across the sector, construction remains Australia’s most male-dominated industry. Female participation is poor and the stereotype of construction as a “male industry” is still prevalent.
 
According to The Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s 2016-2017 scorecard:
 
  • 11.7% of Australia’s construction workforce is female, 88.3% is male
  • Just 1% of construction tradespeople are women
  • 86% of construction managers and professionals are men.
 
A challenging industry for women
 
Construction has never been an easy industry for women to break into, or to progress their careers in. Historically, construction it was considered “men’s work” – but times have changed and this perception is no longer justified. Whether people are working on the tools or in the office, gender shouldn’t matter, but in many ways it still does.
 
Far fewer women than men seek careers in construction. Female participation is further hampered by the industry’s inability to retain its female workforce, with women leaving construction 38% faster than their male counterparts and rarely reaching management1. The long hours, tight deadlines and a lack of flexibility and support prevent many women from ever coming back when they return to work after starting families.
 
Sexism is yet another factor discouraging women from participating. Although most employers prefer to think that inappropriate behaviour and negative attitudes towards women no longer exist, statistically they do, further perpetuating the notion of construction as a male industry.
 
One positive change that’s leveling the playing field is the impact that technology is having on the physical demands of construction. Construction skill-sets are changing, with technological literacy likely to be just as important to future construction as physical strength and dexterity.
 
So why do we need more women in construction?
 
Compelling research tells us that diversity – in any industry – is a good thing. This is particularly true in construction where a diverse workforce means:
 
  • Attracting the very best talent, regardless of gender.
  • Working innovatively and collaboratively, drawing on diverse talents and perspectives.
  • Better financial performance. According to research by McKinsey, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above industry medians.
 
As the third-largest employment sector in Australia, there is also considerable economic benefit to increasing female participation in construction.
 
Fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces
 

Debate continues around diversity legislation, diversity ‘quotas’ and ‘targets’. However, there are many ways to improve diversity.
 
  • Flexible working: Allowing women and men to balance home and work responsibilities.
  • Role models: Visibility and access to male and female role models.
  • Empowerment: There is great value in initiatives like Women Building Australia that focus on empowerment and advancing the careers of women in construction.
  • Mentoring: To improve female talent retention, programs like those run by the National Association for Women in Construction and Women in Design and Construction offer highly targeted professional development opportunities for women.
  • Early intervention: Programs like Building Girls Up in London and Build Like a Girl in the US break down stereotypes and encourage young women to consider careers in construction.
  • Recruitment: A growing movement of recruitment organisations (like Work180) connect women with roles in organisations that value diversity. Similarly, there is greater transparency around diversity and flexibility in the recruitment process.
  • Networking: In male-dominated industries women often lack opportunities to network with other women. Creating suitable networking events allows the creation of vital professional networks and support bases.
  • Policy: Zero-tolerance policies around sexism and other discriminatory behaviours.
  • Education: Particularly around sexual harassment and unconscious bias.
 
To retain talent, improve diversity and give women a fighting chance of building successful careers in construction, significant cultural and industry change is required. Talking about the issue and challenging the stereotypes is certainly a start.
 
Is diversity important to your organisation? What more can the construction industry do to improve gender diversity and create better opportunities for women? Please share your thoughts and comments with us on LinkedIn.
 
Alternatively please contact a member of the Coates Hire team by calling 13 15 52 or submitting an enquiry form below.
 
 

 
 

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