Women in construction: bridging the skills gap


Over the last few years, the UK construction industry has had to contend with an unprecedented skills shortage that demands our immediate attention.

Last year the Trade Skills Index 2023 Summary by Checkatrade revealed that 937,000 recruits in trades and construction are required over the next 10 years to fulfil current construction demands. Despite an anticipated short-term fall in construction output, the UK must turn out at least 25,000 (34%) workers who have completed construction apprenticeships per year to meet the demand and avoid the skills gap from getting even bigger. Over the last few years, the UK has also seen a rise in skills shortages across construction which may also be due to an ageing workforce and many workers seeking work abroad to escape the current cost-of-living crisis in the UK.  

As we look to determine ways in which we can address these challenges, it’s important to note the pivotal role women are playing in bridging the skills gap and how diversifying the workforce and removing barriers could be key to solving the current crisis.  

In recent data released by The Office for National Statistics (ONS), women are currently taking up a higher proportion of the construction workforce than at any other time. From April to June 2023, the construction workforce was 15.8 percent female which is up 1.2 percent on the previous quarter. However, this could be because an ageing workforce has resulted in senior men retiring from the industry in higher numbers which has impacted the female split. According to the data, women are also likely to take up project management roles, as women represented 13.8% of construction project managers surveyed. 

Although these figures still seem to be quite low in comparison to their male counterparts, they do indicate an untapped labour pool and highlight the work the construction industry needs to do to attract more women into the industry. 

Removing Barriers 

So why do fewer women consider a career in construction? A long-held view is that a career in construction mostly involves labour-intensive work that requires physical strength which doesn’t encompass the variety of careers that are and can be, available to women within the industry.  


To encourage more females to consider a career in construction, a concerted effort to encourage young girls to take on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects whilst they’re still in school is likely to be beneficial. According to recent insights from STEM Women, an organisation that promotes the presence of women in STEM, “31% of core STEM students in Higher Education in the UK are women or non-binary”. These particular subjects can provide young girls with the foundational skills required to pursue a variety of careers in construction, and this data highlights that perhaps we as a society aren’t doing enough to encourage girls to take up these subjects. 

Pay gap 

Another factor that may deter women from entering the construction industry is the issue of the gender pay gap. The UK construction industry has one of the widest disparities in terms of equal pay at around 23%, according to data from The Office for National Statistics. One of the ways the construction industry can address this disparity is by providing well-designed flexible working opportunities that enable women to progress in their careers who may not be able to work a standard “full-time” week due to caring responsibilities. Normalising flexible working across all levels of seniority and positions, challenges the stereotype of women as primary carers and allows men to also share these responsibilities, especially childcare.  

Current statistics/data suggest that being a woman within the construction industry means that you’re likely to be outnumbered by your male colleagues. Because of this, there are calls for greater awareness of the opportunities available for women in construction. Construction firms need to ensure that they offer support for women looking to progress their careers within the workplace, or at the very least, highlight the external support that is already out there. A great example of this is “Women into Construction”, an independent, not-for-profit organisation that promotes gender equality in construction. They not only provide individual support for women who are thinking of entering the construction industry but also assist contractors in recruiting female construction workers to reduce skills gaps and create a gender-equal workforce.  

Celebrating Achievement 


As we address the lack of women pursuing careers within construction, it’s fundamental that we highlight the women who are making strides in what has historically been a male-dominated environment. Events like the “Top 100 Influential Women in Construction Awards” are important in highlighting achievements by women within the industry. These awards range from championing technical excellence to highlighting the promotion of bringing women into STEM and individual contributions to gender diversity. 

Similarly, the Inspiring Women in Construction and Engineering conference aims to bring together women and allies to highlight the inspiring role models within organisations that are empowering women within traditionally male spaces.  

Drawing attention to the great achievements women are making in construction through awards and conferences such as the above, provides a model and an avenue for younger girls to aspire to. These events also provide an opportunity for big names within the construction industry to not only celebrate achievements but also to address and discuss where effort and change need to be made to create equal opportunities for all. 

Women in Construction Week 

March 3rd, 2024 marks the beginning of Women In Construction Week. First launched in 1998, WIC Week celebrates and promotes the role of women in the construction industry. International Day of Women and Girls in Science is another holiday established by the General Assembly in 2015 to recognise the critical role women and girls play in science and technology. Although these international events are necessary for helping governments and organisations tackle the challenges faced by women in previously male-dominated areas, the inclusion of women and girls in the future of the UK construction industry should be a top priority for construction leaders, especially as they work to solve the skills crisis. 

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Beverley Bates, Advice Services Director at Markel discusses the support services that are on offer to all customers, "Markel is committed to making sure that all of our customers have access to information around their family-friendly rights, including maternity pay and rules. Our team of experts are on hand to support customers with their queries, and any disputes they might face." 

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