The gender pay gap in construction looks at what this year’s figures say about the gender pay gap in the construction sector.

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Construction, education and financial services are the sectors with the highest gender pay gaps, according to the latest figures. Preliminary analysis by the BBC shows that education had a gender pay gap of 26%, finance and insurance had a gap of 24% and construction a gap of 23.8%. As of 11th October, 13,142 employers with over 250 employees had filed figures, of which 447 were in the construction sector. 

One of the major problems is the sector’s lack of women – women only make up just over 14% of the construction industry, although this is an improvement on previous years and a recent report from Go Construct shows more than one-third (37%) of new entrants into the UK construction industry from higher education are women. 

Moreover, a report published by Randstad in 2020 showed gender discrimination, although very high, has fallen since 2019.  Nevertheless, of 4,200 women working in construction surveyed, nearly three-quarters (72%) had experienced some form of gender discrimination in the workplace in 2019, compared with 80% in 2018. 

We have yet to see what the longer term impact of Covid might be as this year’s gender pay figures are based on a snapshot taken on two days in early Spring 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic.

What the figures show for individual employers

Here are some of the figures from leading firms:

Balfour Beatty’s mean* and median* gender pay gap has reduced to 15% and 18% respectively from 21% and 26% in 2019/20. The mean and median gender bonus gap has closed to 14% and -1% from 28% and 28%. The number of female graduate and apprentice recruits has risen to 27%, up from 22% in 2019.

Women make up only 14% of the highest paid staff [that was 9% last year], but only 13% and 15% of the two ranks below that. They make up 29% of the lowest paid staff [that figure was 34% last year].  

Balfour Beatty has published an action plan alongside its figures, which outlines what it has been doing to address the gender pay gap.

The business has implemented a number of initiatives designed to support and develop women including a reverse mentoring programme for all UK Executive Committee members with the aim of helping senior leaders to understand the perspectives and experiences of those in under-represented groups. Balfour Beatty also runs development programmes such as its “Empower” [In spite of the pandemic, 87 female employees completed the programme]  and “Future Leaders” training modules to support women in their careers. It has a Gender Equality affinity group and has developed a three-year UK D&I action plan.

Balfour Beatty published its figures last year despite the Government saying companies did not have to do so due to Covid. Leo Quinn, CEO of Balfour Beatty, says: “We wanted to maintain the momentum we’ve built up and to be transparent about what we’re doing. Measuring and reporting on progress is key to driving change.” 

He added: “Over the long-term, COVID-19 may actually help drive further improvement in our ability to attract and retain a wider diversity of talented people to our business, as we outline in this report. We have learnt a great deal about inclusion from the new work patterns and styles we have embraced during the lockdowns. We are determined to keep – and build on – these approaches to nurture an inclusive culture, as we explain in more detail below. We should be buoyed up by the fact that our hard work is beginning to pay off. But we must also maintain our resolve to continue the progress we are making. We are committed to building a workforce that is reflective of the society we operate in. And we are taking decisive action to make that a reality.” 

At Lendlease women’s median hourly pay is 22.8% [23.2% in 2019/20 and 35% in 2018/19] lower than men’s while their mean hourly pay is 20.6% [20.3% in 2019/20 and 29.6% in 2018/19] lower than men’s. Women make up 25% of senior staff [the same as last year, but significantly up on 2018/19 when it was just 5%] and 57% of lowest paid staff [up from 54% last year and 34% in 2018/19]. They account for 24% and 35% of the middle quartiles, 24% being the level below senior leadership. Women are less likely to be paid bonuses [74% vs 82%] and are paid an average of 26.6% [46.6% in 2019/20 and 64.2% in 2018/19] less in bonus pay than men. The decline in the bonus gap is due to changes in the structure of bonuses for Lendlease’s most senior employees for 2019 where men are more heavily represented and the figures show more women were paid bonuses than in 2019 [68%].

Its gender pay report is detailed and describes steps taken so far and results, such as increasing female representation from 29% in 2017 to 37% in 2020. This year it has paid particular attention to increasing diversity among early talent. As a result, 63% of its graduate intake were female, an increase from 53% the previous year. This focus also led to an increase in BAME employees from 17% in 2018/2019 to 39% in 2019/2020. Its report, led by CEO Neil Martin, talks about ensuring family friendly policies, such as encouraging dads to take Shared Parental Leave [27% of eligible men took it this year] and updated its guidance on flexible working after running a flexible working pilot in 2018.

Martin said: “I am proud that we are doing more than ever to increase female representation and decrease the gender pay gap across Lendlease UK. However, we cannot be complacent. We must continue to set ambitious targets and evolve our plans, strategies and policies to ensure Lendlease remains an attractive employer for the best talent from a wide range of backgrounds.”

In 2019, its report detailed its gender targets for recruitment of graduates, how it tracks gender data at every stage of the recruitment process, how it has reviewed the language used in job descriptions to ensure it is inclusive of women and minorities and how it advertises roles on job boards specifically geared towards attracting diverse candidates. Other policies included ensuring interview panels are diverse, enhancing Shared Parental Leave and setting up a personal development programme for women.

At Morgan Sindall Construction and Infrastructure Ltd women’s median hourly pay is 31.2% lower than men’s and the mean gap is 32%. Just 8% of senior managers are women compared to 43% of those in the lowest wage bracket. 84% of women received a bonus, compared to 87% of men. Women’s median bonus pay is 45.8% lower than men’s and mean bonus pay is 55.9% lower than men’s. Morgan Sindall’s gender pay action plan outlines a number of areas where the company is seeking to improve gender diversity, including outreach to schools and universities, more flexible working and family friendly policies, such as buddies for those returning from parental leave.

Willmott Dixon Construction Ltd’s median hourly pay for women is 28.8% lower than men’s. Women’s mean hourly pay is 25.9% lower than men’s. Just 5.7% of its highest paid managers are women compared to 36.4% of its lowest paid workers. Women are slightly more likely to receive a bonus than men, but their median bonus pay is 49.1% lower than men’s and their median bonus pay is 64.9% lower than men’s.

The company has published a report with videos alongside its figures. The report says it aims to achieve gender parity by 2030. It outlines some of the schemes it has initiated over the last few years. For instance, it launched a gender diversity steering group and local action groups at the end of 2016 which involves a cross section of the business working with senior management on ideas and initiatives to improve diversity. It also cites how its figures on trainees have improved since 2017 when 38% of its trainees were women. In 2018 its target was 40% of management trainees being women and it achieved 51%. Since 2019, its target has been to recruit 50% women to its management trainee programme.

More broadly, Wilmott Dixon has for two years running been the lead partner with Construction News on its Inspire Me campaign aimed at promoting greater diversity and an increase in women with senior-level leadership roles in construction.

Meanwhile, at Skanska Construction UK women’s median hourly pay is 12.7% lower than men’s and their mean hourly pay is 11.3% lower than men’s. Just 12.3% of senior managers are women while women account for 22.4% of the lowest paid roles. Women are less likely to receive a bonus [9.9% vs 17.7%], but the mean and median bonus pay is higher for women.

Its gender pay report states that just 16.4% of its employees are women. This compares with 28% for Skanska UK Plc, which works predominantly in corporate enabling functions and across Skanska’s building, civil engineering and facilities businesses. 

The company outlines a range of initiatives aimed at addressing its gender pay gap. For instance, it began flexible working pilots with Timewise and Build UK before the pandemic and contributed recommendations for the wider industry and states that it is working to become more gender diverse through its emerging talent programme and inclusive recruitment practices. 

In 2021, Skanska commissioned the ‘Your Lived Experience’ project to examine how different demographic groups experience the company’s culture, resulting in publication of an action plan. During 2020, Skanska also launched its ‘Flex-it’ framework which focused on facilitating conversations for employees, managers and teams in order to encourage and introduce flexibility. In addition, it put in place monitoring to ensure that the proportion of women placed on furlough was in line with the overall Skanska population to make sure that there was no unconscious bias in the process. Other initiatives include a ‘Development at Skanska’ session for its Womxn’s network to highlight all the tools and resources available to support their career progression.

All of these are companies which have published their action plans and/or a narrative about their progress and are known in the industry as being progressive. However, others seem less committed to change.  Higgins Construction, for instance, does not publish any narrative or action plan and didn’t the year before, yet women’s median hourly pay at the company is 53.8% lower than men’s. Women’s mean hourly rate is 49.5% lower than men’s [the gap has risen from 46.6% the last time they reported].  Women occupy none of the highest paid jobs and 54.9% of the lowest paid jobs [30.3% last year]. This may suggest that they are trying to get more women into the business, but there is no information on how they might ensure women climb the ranks.

Women’s median bonus pay is 49.5% lower than men’s and mean bonus pay is 38.8% lower than men’s. However, women are more likely to receive a bonus than men [91.6% of women and 73.7% of men received bonuses. In 2019 women were also more likely to receive bonuses].

*NB The mean gender pay gap is a measure of the difference between women’s mean – average – hourly wage and men’s mean hourly wage. The gender pay gap includes a figure for mean hourly pay and for median hourly pay. The median gender pay gap is the difference between women’s median hourly wage (the middle paid woman) and men’s median hourly wage (the middle paid man).

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