11th November Journal Column

By Victoria S Beattie, Director of Construction, Gateshead Council

One of my least favourite topics, the gender pay gap, has reared its head in the news once again this week, but for once, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Statistics from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), show that the pay gap between men and women in construction is now 1.8 per cent below the national average – hooray!

The industry has long been known as a ‘man’s industry’ and it’s been great to see it dramatically change its stance on women in recent years. We’re certainly making more improvements than other industries, but a 16.3 per cent gap, for me, is still 16.3 per cent too much
I’ve personally found that attitudes towards women in construction have changed massively and are more positive than ever before. In the 20 years that I’ve worked in construction a lot has changed, things might not be perfect, but they are certainly better than they used to be.

From next April, the Government will start action to tackle the gender pay gap by requiring all employers with more than 250 employees to publish their gender pay and gender bonus gaps. This will produce more accurate figures, so this time next year we’ll have a much clearer picture of where we’re at, and how we can start to reduce that pay gap even further.

We need to keep working to ensure the industry is seen as an attractive career choice for young girls. Research carried out by YouGov, on behalf of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), asked young women aged between 13 and 22 about their perceptions of gender equality in the workplace. The results showed that 29 per cent thought property and construction sectors were only for men, voting them the least female-friendly industry. What’s even more shocking is that 41 per cent of respondents believed being a woman would hold them back in any workplace – something I couldn’t disagree more with; nobody should be held back just because of their gender.

We need to show the world that women can be just as successful as men, particularly when it comes to inspiring the next generation of young women that there is a world of possibilities ahead of them. Of those that took part in the YouGov survey, 43 per cent said having a female Prime Minister or President would help gender diversity at work. We’re still in the early stages of having a female Prime Minister again but Theresa May is proof to young women that they really can achieve anything. Look at Angela Merkel, she was Germany’s first woman Chancellor and is the longest-serving current head of government in the European Union. Earlier this year, Merkel was named the most powerful woman in the world by Forbes for the tenth time – if that doesn’t show young women that gender doesn’t hold you back then I don’t know what does!