What do women want in a construction career?

Salary was only a lukewarm incentive for women in the construction industry while male-dominated culture and sexual harassment remain key turnoffs for one of the world’s biggest employers.

A nationwide survey conducted by Australian Catholic University researcher Dr Marzena Baker found almost one in three women working in construction considered salary to be of no influence in terms of attraction to the industry.

Career opportunity was the greater attraction, with 70 per cent of the 655 respondents considering that to be either slightly or highly influential as a lure to the sector.

Rusted-on experiences are one of the most influential barriers in the construction industry where 31.9 per cent of women were discouraged by sexual harassment.

“Attracting women to the workforce is a complex process,” Dr Baker said.

“There is no one size fits all approach and there needs to be nuanced strategies to attract and retain women.”

The survey findings were contrary to a 2022 Mercer Global Talent Trends Report which identified worker benefits and burnout as the most common reasons for attrition.

Inclusion and diversity are hot topics for the construction industry which, according to the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers, is losing women at a rate almost 39 per cent higher than that of their male colleagues.

Dr Baker’s study, published in the International Journal of Construction Management, explored women’s perceptions of workplace allure, career barriers and what might lead them to leave the industry.

The project also sought a deeper understanding of how those factors differed by age and role level.

It identified male dominated culture, lack of work–family balance, gender stereotypes, unequal allocation of posts and activities, and unequal promotions as major barriers.

Sexist work cultures, harassment and lack of respect, failure to recognise work performed, and lack of social networks also were found to be deterrents.

“With construction employment rising, recruiting and retaining women must be a priority,” Dr Baker said.

“If organisations are genuine about attracting women, they would benefit from tailoring their recruitment policies and practices.” 

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