Owed Goodhead, boss of recruiter Randstad Construction Property & Engineering
Owen Goodhead, boss of recruiter Randstad Construction Property & Engineering
Raoul Duke

72% of women in construction have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace

More than two thirds of women in construction (72%) say they have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace, a new report from construction recruiter Randstad reveals.

According to a poll of 4,200 construction workers in the UK, 41% women in construction said they had been on the receiving end of inappropriate comments or behaviour from a male colleague.

This was significantly higher than when similar research was carried out two years ago when 28% of women said they had experienced gender discrimination in the workplace in the form of inappropriate comments or behaviour from male colleagues.

Owen Goodhead, managing director of Randstad Construction Property & Engineering, said: “More women are reporting problems with inappropriate comments or behaviour from male colleagues than two years ago. Hopefully, this does not reflect a huge uptick in sexism - we think it’s more likely that the #MeToo movement has left women in construction empowered and less likely to accept this sort of behaviour as ‘banter’.”

The prevalence of gender discrimination is having a detrimental effect on the industry. When asked why women leave construction, 47% blamed “male dominated culture” while 38% held the female role models in senior positions responsible. A further 35% pointed the finger at a lack of flexible hours and another 33% said stress was the reason women left the industry. 30% blamed outright discrimination.

There are signs things are changing. Women over 65 were much more likely to report that sexual harassment had had a significant impact on their career (14%) than their younger colleagues (8%).

And the findings revealed 8% of men reported having been on the receiving end of inappropriate comments or behaviour from their female colleagues – suggesting this behaviour is not solely aimed at women.

Sarah Sidey, head of strategic accounts at Randstad Property, Construction & Engineering said: “There are some encouraging signs here. Eighteen years ago, when I started recruiting for construction and property organisations, sexism was still pretty common within the industry. The moment a woman stepped on the site, it began; the analysis of her face, her body, her voice, her demeanour; the scrutiny of her skills, her accomplishments, and her ability. Until recently, one in five companies have no women in senior roles. Less overt sexism was also more frequent. Back in the day, site gear didn’t fit women, for instance.

“It’s reassuring to see how our data supports the positive advances we are seeing in our industry even if this isn’t as quick as we would like! The recent advances around the design of PPE to support our diverse workforce is a real achievement. I am confident that over the next decade, we will start to see more women in senior roles.”

Randstad also asked women what they thought would help women stay in the industry. Half (50%) said more flexible working hours with 42% suggesting better childcare options. A third (33%) said cultural change was needed.

Owen Goodhead said: “There are some concrete initiatives that the industry can adopt to stop the flood of women leaving the industry including more flexible working arrangements, and better childcare arrangements. The worrying thing is that, 35% of the women we polled were unaware of any initiatives offered by their own company to try to stem the flow.”

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