The gender pay gap in the construction industry

Construction Teams looking at papers on a table


The construction industry received a lot of attention when the gender pay gap statistics were published earlier this month. It was widely reported to be the sector with the highest gender pay gap.

Of the 10,046 employers with over 250 employees who filed figures 351 were in the construction sector. One of the major problems is the sector’s difficulty generally in attracting women.

At Balfour Beatty, although women’s mean hourly rate is 15% lower than men’s, the figures for female representation at all levels is very low –  only 5% of the highest paid staff are women. However, at the bottom level only 14% of staff are female. No women received bonuses.

At Everest, women’s mean hourly rate is 34% lower than men’s and their mean bonus pay is 72% lower than men’s. The higher figure is due in part to the company having few women at the top – just 14% – but more at the bottom – 64%. It is one of a few of the construction companies which have issued a report on their gender pay gap. It says it will address the gap by attracting females into under-represented roles; shortlisting candidates to achieve gender balance and diversity where possible; and investing more in supporting and progressing female talent into more senior roles, although there is not much detail in the report.

At Higgins Construction women’s mean hourly rate is 40% lower than men’s. 9.7% of the highest paid staff are female, but women are poorly represented throughout, making up only 23.3% of the lowest paid staff. Women are more likely to receive bonuses, but are paid on average 93.4% less than men.

At Lendlease women are paid on average 30.4% less than men. Women make up only 6% of senior staff and 33% of lowest paid staff. Its gender pay report says it  is “determined to address by attracting more women to the industry and supporting the development of more women into senior roles”, but does not specify how.

At MITIE women’s mean hourly rate is 20.7% lower than men’s, but it has better representation through its ranks [38% at the top and 68% at the bottom]. Of note is evidence that it is building its female pipeline in the two middle levels where the percentages for both are 55%.

The figures are perhaps not surprising given construction’s traditional image and the industry’s media have lamented the fact that many in the sector appear not to be taking the issue very seriously. Construction News spoke of “platitudes” and asked why companies seemed afraid to talk about how they were tackling the issue. However, some construction firms are trying to turn their work culture around and to drive wider change in the industry.

Returners and the beginnings of culture change

Evidence of the beginnings of change as companies wake up to the business impact of a lack of diversity – not just in terms of attracting the best female but also the top male graduates –  came earlier this year when the UK’s largest event for the built environment, UK Construction Week, released a new guide for its exhibitors to promote greater equality, diversity and inclusion in their marketing at the show. The move came amid negative press coverage of other male-dominated industry events in the wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.

Several construction firms have launched returner programmes aimed at mainly women who have taken a career break as a way of bringing in some experienced women to fill skills gaps. They include Balfour Beatty and the Swedish firm Skanska.

Others are looking at every aspect of their business – from parental and carer support to flexible work and recruitment and career progression processes to move towards a greater gender balance. Morgan Sindall’s Dawn Moore recently won the Working Mums’ Champion Award for her commitment to changing work culture in the industry.

Wilmott Dixon, one of’s Top Employers, is looking to increase its gender diversity through recruitment campaigns that feature female staff, advertise flexible jobs and target female-friendly jobs boards. Willmott Dixon is also a headline partner of Construction News’ Inspire Me gender diversity campaign. Although it has a median gender pay gap of 43.5 per cent, the company is championing change and its CEO Rick Willmott has publicly said the company wants a 50:50 gender split by 2030.

To find out about your employer’s gender pay gap, click here.

*The mean hourly rate is the average hourly wage across the entire organisation so the mean gender pay gap is a measure of the difference between women’s mean hourly wage and men’s mean hourly wage.

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