Responding to David Cameron’s announcement yesterday regarding plans to tackle the gender pay gap “within a generation” – BSRIA agrees with this statement – but has concerns over the skills debate.
BSRIA Chief Executive, Julia Evans, says:
“It is essential for the construction industry – both now and in the future – that there is a drive to increase the number of women studying STEM subjects at university – especially engineering.
The current statistics for women in the construction workplace is about 12% compared to 47% in other industries. This differentiation is clearly unacceptable.
Women make up 52% of Britain’s population, so increasing the percentage of the female workforce in the industry must happen.
Our industry’s lack of progress towards equality is shameful. Aside from the lack of diversity, from a practical perspective, with one in five workers soon to reach retirement, the industry needs to increase its skilled workforce. It must start attracting and retaining talented professionals regardless of gender, age or ethnicity.
Women have struggled to get an equal footing in construction, but the representation of women in our industry has waxed and waned in recent history, demonstrating that, government leadership is crucial in this important debate.
Unfortunately, we’re currently back to the issue of a lack of available skilled labour. The government recognises this and, last year, BSRIA welcomed the government’s announcement on a £30m fund to secure supply of engineers and boost number of women in sector. The funding will support employer-led training to encourage career conversions and progression in the industry.
Funding new training opportunities is a great step forward, but to see real change we need industry leaders to be proactive in embedding a more diverse and inclusive work culture.
BSRIA acknowledges that this statement coincides with the government’s announcement that a target of getting women into at least a quarter of the boardroom seats in the UK’s biggest firms by 2015 has been met. The industry recognises the value of having a diverse board is crucial.”
In the government’s report – Mr Cameron said the move will “pressure” firms into boosting women’s wages. In November last year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures suggested that the gender pay gap was at its narrowest since comparative records began in 1997.
The coalition legislated in the last Parliament to require firms with more than 250 employees to publish the average pay of male and female colleagues – with measures to be introduced within the year. Gender pay audits are to be introduced.
According to a report published in March this year by Professor Susan Vinnicombe CBE, Director of the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders, there are 263 female held directorships across the FTSE 100. The percentage of new appointments going to women over the last six months was 31.6%.
The ONS has stated that the number of women who work as roofers, bricklayers and glaziers is currently so low as to be essentially unmeasurable.