Bridging the gap

6 Dec 2017

Construction has come a long way in recent years through challenging outdated stereotypes across the industry. Gone are the days when, as a newly qualified architect fresh out of university, I was the only woman based on site. In many ways that reality is now far removed from the negative perceptions that still linger: that the industry is dangerous, dirty and unattractive as a career.

Lucy Homer

Executive General Manager Design + Technical, Managing Director SCAPE Principal Works – Lendlease Europe

Visit a Lendlease construction site today and you will be amazed by the technology that is used on a day to day basis; the cleanliness; the order; the remarkable skill and quality of work – the sheer logistical brilliance – and the extensive measures taken to ensure safety. Many people will also be surprised by the diversity on site – the array of workers from different backgrounds and different age groups.

But there is one issue where the industry still falls behind other sectors: the vast majority of workers are men. In fact, according to the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT), just 11 per cent of the workforce is female. This lack of gender diversity remains a serious issue for the industry and one that Lendlease is determined to tackle.

That is why we have opted to become one of the United Kingdom government’s ‘early adopters’ and have published our gender pay gap data six months early, ahead of the April 2018 deadline that has been imposed for companies with over 250 employees.

The government’s definition of the gender pay gap does not refer to equal pay for equal work – something Lendlease does as a matter of course – but rather the overall difference in salaries earned by women and men collectively. As Building reported last month, the data shows that in Lendlease’s UK construction business, women’s hourly fixed pay is 30.4 lower on average than men’s - a direct result of there being significantly fewer women than men in this division. Contrast this with the Lendlease UK group as a whole and the gap falls to 19.2 per cent which is in line with the national average.

And while there is no glossing over these figures, the sheer lack of women in the construction sector means that, almost regardless of the roles that women are doing in construction, the figures will show a gulf in what women in construction earn compared to men. They show that despite all the progress that has been made in recent years construction still has a long way to go.

Lendlease is taking this issue very seriously – and by publishing our pay gap data early we want to challenge the industry to follow suit.

To tackle the gender pay gap we have put in place a series of measures to redress the balance. We want to hire more women and support them to reach the top roles. So, we have introduced a 50:50 gender mix graduate intake, a rule that all recruitment shortlists include women, and a 50:50 target for Lendlease’s ‘future leaders’ program. We are also enabling flexible working and support family leave and we are providing full pay for six months maternity leave, adoption and shared parental leave.

In the last 18 months, we have increased senior female representation across the group from 24 per cent to 29 per cent – but we can still do better and are now targeting 33 per cent. At Glasshouse Gardens, a Lendlease residential scheme in Stratford, east London, some 10 per cent of our construction team on site was female. When you consider that most site teams are one per cent women, this was a great achievement.

We hope that the industry will see gender pay gap reporting not as a threat or something to fear but as an opportunity to tackle our lack of gender diversity head on. It gives construction the chance to come together and look at why we are not as diverse as other sectors; why it matters and what can be done to change the situation. If the industry as a whole becomes a more diverse workplace, then we will all ultimately benefit.