Gender Pay Gap

  Gender Pay Gap: Construction Exposed   The gender pay gap is something that always causes controversy in the work place.  In most cases, unless you ask, you will be unaware of what your colleagues are being paid, but when the facts come out exposing a pay gap that is apparently based on gender, it is unsurprising that lots of women are left feeling slighted.  Recently the construction industry has come top in a fact-finding mission that exposes gaps in equal pay, so for once the top is not a good place to be.   How Was This Exposed? 2018 saw a change to the law that meant companies had to report disparities in gender pay.  Coinciding with the new tax year, the new regulations have painted a naming picture for the construction industry with some of the biggest names being exposed as massively gender biased.  It has now been conclusively proven, that with a median difference of 25% construction has the singular most significant gender-based pay disparity out of all industries in Britain.  This is rather daring for the industry and it is now hoped action will be taken to remedy this immediately.   Which Data Was Used?   Companies required to report their figures were those that employ more than 250 people, so the problem could be just as rife in smaller companies who as yet have not been forced to make their information public.  Businesses were forced to report data under four categories:  
  1. The mean and median gender pay gap
  2. The mean and median gender bonus pay gap
  3. Percentage of male and female employees who received bonus payments
  4. Percentage of male and female employees in each quartile of the company pay structure
  The Mean   This is the difference in percentage between an average pay for a male employee in a company and an average wage for a woman employee.  So, if on average men are paid £30,000 and woman paid £27,000 then they pay gap is 10%   The Median   All pay is arranged from highest to lowest split by gender.  The midpoint salary on both lists is then pinpointed, and the difference is the median.  This is the figure of 25% seen in the contraction industry. Before data were legally required the Office for National Statistics had estimated that the pay gap in the construction sector was 14.9%.  The new evidence proves that the problem is significantly worse than first thought and has been a pretty well-kept insider secret.   More Bad News While 25% is a pretty damning figure, this is the median across the industry as a whole.  Because the information is now in the public domain, it has been possible to see companies on an individual basis, and some of the pictures are bleak with some very red-faced heads of companies potentially heading for the hills.  Most companies actually have a more significant pay gap than 25% with one company actually seeing a 40% median difference which really is appalling.   Why Have Things Got So Bad?   When challenged the worst offending companies were not prepared to speak to industry publication ‘Construction News’ about the issue, but other publicly available information shows that female employees in the top quartile of pay account for just 7% in one company, which leads us to assume that they do not have many women in senior roles.  It is fair to say that women are still underrepresented in construction and tend to fill the office based administration roles which are perhaps not as well paid as other more manual roles traditional and almost solely filled by men. Where there are more men than women making up the statistics, it is perhaps inevitable that the statistics are going to be skewed to create a gender pay gap that looks worse that the reality. Women Stay Low in Construction   When looked at by quartile, the overall figures show that many companies do have a 50/50 split when it comes to the lowest pay quartile, and in some cases, women make up more than 60% of staff at this level.  When we climb to the top pay quartile, have already seen that women drop off rapidly, with no significant construction firm having more than 20% at the top.  This begs the question why are women not progressing?  Do women not find the industry appealing or are men being promoted over women on purpose? Of course, there is no way of answering that question quickly.  Previously we have talked about inspiring school-age children to join the construction industry and have stressed the importance of appealing to both male and female candidates but at the end of the day if the industry does not attract women what can be done?   Acknowledgment from the Top   While the worst offending companies were not prepared to discuss the issue with Construction News, one director from a company that showed an individual median pay gap of 29%, (over the national average) was happy to acknowledge that more needed to be done.  He also felt that bringing more women into the industry is going to be the way that the issue gets resolved.  Defending the figures from his business he was keen to push the point that the pay gap is a natural result of such imbalanced employment figures.  He reinforced the view that attracting women into the industry is a tough challenge as there is a percentage of roles that most women do not apply for, typically onsite, manual functions.  Women tend to apply for office-based roles which do no attract high salaries.  Things like apprenticeship programs need to be pushed out to appeal to women, as there also seems to be a higher chance of career progression when starting young.  Many apprenticeship programs offer progression to degree level qualifications which will naturally put the employee in a more upper quartile for pay.   Overall the report and figures now legally required make pretty dismal reading for gender equality in construction.  It will be interesting to see the statistics for April 2019 to see if any of the big construction names have made any progress in closing the gap.  

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Simon Wilkins

Simon Wilkins

The Headhunter

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