Are women really being paid less than men in construction? The answer might surprise you.

Updated: Jul 3, 2019

This blog is part of a week-long series that looked at the identification of the problem on Monday, will try to understand why it happens today. Tomorrow we will consider what you can do about it. Thursday will look at what managers who have noticed this challenge in their teams can do.

Following on from yesterdays question from a woman asking if she was being paid less than her co-worker. We are now going to try and understand the bigger picture to help us identify any red flags we need to be looking out for.

As ever this is a large area that impacts on personal, cultural and structural levels. Because the question we received yesterday did not provide much detail, we will look at this from a structural overview only. It's pretty hard to do anything else without making a bucket load of assumptions.

We shall lightly consider two main bits of data Gender pay, Equal pay. Time alone prevents us from looking at the qualitative research (though having read an awful lot it there is nothing that suggests these statistics are misleading). Let me know if you want me to do a more detail blog on any of these areas.

Gender pay gap.

It's necessary to clear this up quickly; the gender pay gap is not meant to expose if women are paid the same as men in the same role. That's not the point of it. The way I see it, it is designed to show the power distribution in our organisations. The flow of money is a great way to do this. If women are not well represented across organisations or entire sectors, their experience will likely differ from their peers. The difference in experience may cause additional challenges.

Let's take the gender out of it, that always seems to get people wound up and look at it another way.

Imagine you are working in a business, and the entire board is made up of designers. There are other essential roles in the business, such as accountants, operations managers and human resource functions, but they are not represented. The reason for this is that the CEO is a designer and doesn't think people who haven't studied design will understand their vision. One of the designers did a module of accountancy in University, another has a child who works in HR, and a third knows an operations manager really well, in fact, they are best mates. The CEO believes that the experiences of the designers are enough to represent other business functions. As the company develops the accountants, HR professionals and operations managers become frustrated. The concerns they have about money, people and programming are always downplayed because design need are always prioritised. This is made worse by the designers refusing to budge, they feel they have adequately covered all the businesses needs. The non-designers feel they struggle to make their voices heard, without regular access to the CEO this makes things increasingly tricky. They do find ways to get what they need; but they are aware that because they are not designers, they need to work harder every time. Additionally, because they are not present at the strategic and decision-making stages, everything is written for designers and their preferences in designer terminology. Having designers input into all business matters makes it a lot easier for all the other designers to get on with the day to day work, they need to do, this means they are excelling reinforcing the CEOs decision to keep them on the board. The CEO is starting to worry non-designers are, at best a bad fit for the business at worst, lazy and incompetent.

Being anything other than a designer in that business is exhausting.

Now reconsider this with gender. Are women underrepresented in positions of power in the construction industry? If the gender pay gap is anything to go by, then yes. Construction reports the worst gender pay gap of any industry by median (25.5%), and a closer look at the figures see women underrepresented across senior roles.

Equal pay gap.

Now let's look at how women fare when we compare like with like. This handy tool from the office of national statistics shows the pay gap in like for like roles.

Equal pay gap data reveals that, while women Architects are paid 1.8% more than men in the same role (Office for National Statistics, 2019), women working in other built environment roles do not fare as well. Women working as construction and building trades supervisors are paid 41.2% less than their male counterparts; women civil engineers are paid 11.2% less than men, quality control and planning engineers 10.9% less than men; quantity surveyors are paid 5.4% less than men; and construction project managers 18.9% less than men.


Overall women are being paid less then men in construction roles, the reasons why are complicated and many (as ever happy to do blogs on specifics if requested). What you need to take away from this is that there is something bigger than you happening here. That means to create an effective strategy; you need to understand a little bit about the more significant issues. Imagine putting together a business plan without knowing anything about the industry you will be working in, its a bit like that. If you don't, you could waste time, for example, working on improving your confidence, when the real problem is the way you are being compared against your male peers.

Try not to let it bog you down. Instead, try to look at it as a puzzle you need to figure out, not necessarily a great puzzle, but something to be solved none the less — Remember The Duck Project approach of using these experiences to build skills. Here we have the opportunity to research, strategically plan and action those plans with clear objectives and mountains of past research.

Understanding more regarding how your business makes pay decisions and how those decisions can disproportionately disadvantage, women will help you focus your energy. Let's work smarter, not harder.

If you want to know how to find out if you are being paid less, have a look at yesterdays blog for some pointers. Tomorrow we will look at how individuals can address the issue.

If anyone wants to send in a more specific and contextual question, please do, and It will go on the list to be answered in a future blog. If you have something, you need dealing with more urgently than sign up to one of our personal plans.

64 views0 comments