We need to attract women early and upskill throughout their careers

In all walks of life, a truly inclusive and diverse environment can see immeasurable benefits, such as new perspectives and skillsets. Historically, the construction industry’s workforce has been dominated by men. However, a noticeable shift is occurring in the UK construction industry as a record proportion of women are seeing career opportunities in our field. Office for National Statistics figures for Q4 2023 show that the construction workforce in the UK is 14.2 per cent female, down from the Q2 2023 peak of 15.8 per cent.

Clearly, there is still a way to go to get gender equality. But how do you make such an existential change to an industry that traditionally has attracted much more men than women?

Make a strong start

Construction is an industry that truly offers colleagues the ability to have a career for life. The work we do is global, demand for our expertise is growing and the skills needed to have a successful career are rapidly changing.

Gone are the days of all jobs in construction consisting of physical work and long, antisocial hours. Technological advancements and the drive for innovative and sustainable solutions means that the industry is, naturally, attracting a new wave of skilled workers – of all genders, ages and backgrounds.

The current landscape of the UK construction industry is increasingly inclusive, with more women than ever before shaping its future. Their presence and contribution are vital to the industry’s resilience, innovation, and success.

By attracting diverse colleagues into the industry at the very start of their careers, we know we can make a meaningful impact on the current gender disparity within our sector.

Apprentice and graduate schemes are a great place to start tackling the challenge. At Mace, we are pleased to have 44 per cent of graduates on the two-year development programme and 38 per cent of apprentices on the four-year development programme identifying as women or non-binary.

Don’t forget those already employed

It isn’t just women at the start of their careers who we need to focus on. Talent retention is a key focus area for the entire industry. With women trailblazers at all levels of seniority, it is important to continue to support and upskill women who are forging a career within an industry where they remain the minority.

Women across the industry are building, maintaining and implementing new skills with help from funds from the Apprenticeship Levy. Experienced and emerging-talent colleagues are able to access funding for further professional development in areas such as digital, green, management and leadership, and many more. This is helping to develop a wave of skilled women who are challenging the status quo and making an impact on the essential services we provide.

There’s still a way to go

While the UK is making headways into embracing a more diverse workforce, we know that not all countries and cultures are keeping pace. Through global mobility we are able to relocate skilled women and start to build the representation that our industry needs in all corners of the world.

Targeting those at the start of their careers and putting support around those who are embedded in the industry is just a start. The impact of relatable role models in leadership positions cannot be underestimated and promoting talented women – as well as men – is going to continue to be an important way to redress gender imbalance in our workforce.

As a sector we know that if we get this right, there will be more and more women in all roles across all areas in the construction industry. I am certain we all agree this would be a great outcome for the future of our industry.