Where Next for Gender Diversity in Contracting?

Rebekah Valero-Lee diversity


Adrian Adair talks gender diversity in contracting.

While it’s more common to find women in a greater variety of engineering and construction roles than it was a generation ago, female contractors still only make up a small proportion of the workforce in these growing sectors.

According to the ONS (Office for National Statistics) women make up just 12.8 per cent of the workforce in construction, from boardroom to building site. And in the engineering sector the percentage of women is even lower. According to WES (Women’s Engineering Society) statistics from 2016, just nine per cent of the engineering workforce is female and only six per cent of registered engineers and technicians (i.e. CEng, IEng, EngTech) are women. And yet, a more diverse staffing profile can be extremely beneficial. According to a Forbes global survey, 85 per cent of corporate diversity and talent leaders agree that a diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that drive innovation.

So what’s stopping more women from pursuing a career in contracting roles? While many companies are actively trying to engage young women earlier in their education, gender stereotypes are often well-established long before teenagers start considering potential careers.

What’s more, those stereotypes are all around us – even if the family environment is more gender neutral in its approach to educating and encouraging girls, the media and social norms often counter that. Indeed, a baby milk brand is currently in trouble with the regulator for an advertisement that features images of a baby girl growing up to be a ballerina while the baby boy in the ad grows up to be an engineer!

Employers are already doing a good job of trying to turn the tide and the development of specialist STEM education environments will help to encourage more young women down relevant education pathways. Programmes such as the STEM Ambassador scheme also provide opportunities for female construction and engineering professionals to inspire the next generation of women and change perceptions amongst their family and wider society. Similarly, a positive portrayal of women in traditionally male-dominated roles in the media is vital, and there is a noticeable drive for gender diversity in children’s TV dramas and factual programming.

Change may not be happening as quickly as many would hope but it is happening. Moreover, the more we engage with young women in education and share positive stories of the rewarding careers women are enjoying in contracting, the more we can escalate the pace of change and enhance levels of gender diversity in the construction and engineering workplace.

Here at Morson International, we recently pledged to double the number of females we have in engineering roles by the end of the decade. Currently, we’ve more than 1,800 female contractors in various roles throughout the globe, yet for those in engineering, the number of females compared to males sits at 7.5%.

Our Gerry Mason Engineering Excellence Scholarship with the University of Salford and the work we’re doing with Girls’ Network are just some of the ways that we’re helping to inspire the next generation of female engineers. We’re also the proud sponsor of this year’s Women in Construction awards, which recognises some of the best female talent and the roles they play in the built environment, and are exhibiting at the Inspire Summit. The one day conference features some of the leading women in construction and engineering who are reshaping the industry and inspiring the next generation of female talent.

Around half of all female engineers enter the industry through a family connection, highlighting the importance of role models within the sector and we’re inviting MPs, universities and other education providers to work alongside us and overcome the lack of female representation in technical sectors.

For more insights into our female engineers and the roles they play for leading clients around the globe, take a look at our dedicated Women in Engineering portal.