Why women are critical to the future of infrastructure and construction
Infrastructure and construction have typically been a male dominated industry, however, as the world is changing and equality is becoming more and more common amongst workplaces, it is important to determine why the industry gender gap within the construction and infrastructure industry is progressively getting worse.
In fact, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 97% of CEOs and 88% of senior managers within the construction industry are male. When comparing these figures with other industries, construction is lacking quite substantially in relation to its proportion of male and female employees.
Source – ABS 2018
However, this is not necessarily the industry’s fault. Dr Phillippa Carnemolla (2018 recipient of the National Association of Women in Construction scholarship) discovered that women’s participation in construction is the one to blame with figures dropping by 5% since 2006.
The construction industry is not alone with the Infrastructure sector suffering as well. Less than 17% of females are present within the transport division and only 4.5% hold leadership positions. However, rather than looking at these figures in a negative light, instead it shows a great career opportunity for females. Both industries are on the rise and with over $200 billion of work expected to commence in the infrastructure industry alone, employment is on the rise.
Barriers for women
Diverse workplaces are known to increase productivity amongst employees which as a result will provide an array of benefits. The issue that stands is that there is a stigma surrounding the industry, with it being a male dominated sector. While this is completely true, it is important for females not to steer away due to these reasonings. Diversity amongst workplaces is crucial not only for productivity but to gain new perspectives and innovative ideas that both genders can provide.
A study conducted by McKinsey & Company discovered that those companies who were in the top quartile for gender diversity were 21% more likely to outperform in terms of profitability as well as 27% were likely to have stronger value creation. Whereas, those companies who found themselves in the bottom quartile for diversity were less likely to achieve above average in regards to their profitability.
Dr Carnemolla researched into the girls’ perceptions of the construction industry and discovered some of the fundamental reasons as to why females avoid the construction industry. The most common finding was that there was a common belief that the industry was not considered due to the gender imbalance and perceived exclusivity. Furthermore, the study found that it was actually the teachers and parents that were discouraging young girls to consider the construction industry when determining their future career options. The study also delved into the culture of these industries, more so into the employment methods. Dr Carnemolla found that these industries are very laid back and tend to have more informal methods of communication. For example, often interview processes are scratched with workers tending to land jobs by knowing the right people. Whereas, women tend to prefer being recruited through formal methods such as an interview process or by sending in a resume, which is pretty much unheard of in such an industry. These cultural factors play a big part into why females tend to not be present such roles and why females may feel unwelcome or afraid to enter into the construction and infrastructure sector.
Changing the pathways for women
Times are changing, so it is only fair for the infrastructure and construction sectors to take a look into their current methods and determine how their culture can be improved. All parties, including students, individuals, schools, parents and all employees/employers within these industries need to take responsibility and change their viewpoints in a way that ensures inclusivity, fairness and diversity.
Both industries need to initiate the change in order for a flow on effect to happen. In fact, the Queensland government are doing just that by looking for ways to increase the number of women present within the construction area. The Minister for Women and Member for Bulimba, Di Farmer, said that there are plenty of young women who are interested in entering into the industry and with the statistics to prove that diverse workplaces allow for the best talent (regardless of gender), it only makes sense for women to start to feel welcomed in.
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