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Achieving equal pay in construction


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With men in construction roles earning on average 23 per cent more than women, when the average gender pay gap across all sectors stands at 9.7 per cent, the “male dominated” construction industry is the sector furthest away from achieving gender equality, a report published in August by the House of Commons’ Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, revealed.

Fortem, which employs 1,000 people and delivers construction services in the South Midlands area on our Construction framework, has worked hard to achieve an average gender pay gap of just 1.9 per cent.

We face the same challenges as construction businesses, in that many of our roles can be viewed as traditionally “masculine”, so how did we achieve such a low gap? And, more importantly, how do we plan to reduce it even further and strive towards total gender equality?

Recruiting based on talent

At Fortem, we want to hire the very best people, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, or background, and we always make these decisions based on individuals’ values and behaviours, rather than focussing on their previous industry experience. We have found this makes a huge difference in a traditionally male dominated industry, enabling us to access a wider candidate pool of female talent.

With our long-established culture of ‘growing our own’ future leaders, our management trainee scheme equips participants with the skills and experiences they need to progress within the business.

We are encouraging increasing numbers of female school and university leavers to join our management trainee scheme each year, and female trainees currently make up 40 per cent, nearly half of those on the scheme.

When we ask people what they think of when they imagine careers in construction, they often answer with words such as 'dirty', 'smelly' and 'male'. But when they see our ambassadors, including female apprentices, they realise that working in trades is not what they thought, and perhaps it could be an option for them.

Melanie Checkley

Fortem, regional community partner - Midlands

Our female ambassadors

Like many organisations in our sector, we have found it difficult to change people’s perceptions about jobs in construction being ‘masculine’. To tackle this problem, we take a more targeted approach to recruiting female apprentices, by using women within our team to inspire and educate.

We have recruited a group of female ambassadors from across our business, who visit schools and colleges to talk to students about opportunities with us, discuss their experiences as women in construction and increase awareness of the diverse, varied and rewarding roles available for men and women in the construction industry.

Gas Engineer, Ellie King, commented on the initiative: "I would love for there to be more women in trade roles, which is why I became involved in Fortem’s work with schools. Throughout the last year, I have visited lots of different schools, talking about my own career choices and running workshops. This year, I have been focussing on running taster sessions in Fortem’s 4Life Academy in Birmingham, helping school children to learn basic plumbing skills."

In just one year, we have significantly increased the proportion of women applying for apprenticeships. Last year, 4 per cent of applicants were women, which has risen to 10 per cent this year.

There is still a long way to go and much more that we and other businesses can do to challenge industry perceptions and encourage more women into the sector, but we are certainly heading in the right direction.

The industry as a whole has a responsibility to address the gender pay gap in construction, and focussing on steps such as these to ensure equality will help us to close the gender pay gap completely in the future.

Louise Collins

Fortem, culture and engagement project lead

Louise Collins Head of HR Fortem

Written by:

Louise Collins
Culture and Engagement Project Lead