Gender Equality in Civil Construction – Why Having a Policy Won’t Cut it

Just suppose your next civil construction invitation to tender had a section specifically about gender equality? It might ask what positive steps you are taking to make your business more inclusive and to recruit more female engineers. How will you explain to others what your business is doing?

This scenario isn’t all that far-fetched. It may well be a feature of publicly funded procurement in the not too distant future.

Gender equality in civil construction and engineering is an issue for many reasons. Fairness, and being a better reflection of wider society is a big one. But there are also commercial aspects. Clients are increasingly after a better customer experience and more creativity. Gender-diverse teams bring a wider perspective and often come up with better solutions.

Gender Equality and Company Culture


An organisation that seems serious about issues such as equality and diversity may also be seen as having a forward-looking and adaptable culture. Perhaps they’ll be more innovative and easier to work with?

There’s also evidence that women have a gentler approach when it comes to using or servicing machinery. This can result in fewer equipment breakdowns and less maintenance.

Finally, of course, there’s the really basic issue of skills shortages. The traditional recruitment pool isn’t deep enough to deliver the pipeline of projects. Clients may want to see that you are casting your net as widely as possible to find the talent needed to deliver their schemes.

Female Engineers and Construction Employees – the Data


First, the good news. The number of women graduating in engineering disciplines in Australia has grown by 32% over the last decade. But, over the same period, male graduates increased by 34%. So the overall proportion of domestic female engineering graduates went down. Just over 14% of engineering graduates are women.

Degree qualifications are, of course, not the only route into the industry. Civil construction apprenticeship pathways, also need to be made more welcoming. The CCF NSW Women in Civil Program is an example that could be followed nationally.

Across the industry, women now make up nearly 12% of the workforce, yet the National Association of Women in Construction has found that less than three percent of senior roles are filled by females. This is a long way behind other sectors.

Driving Change Through Procurement


One way or another, gender equality is becoming a bigger issue. Clients will almost certainly seek to drive change through procurement. Contractors, in turn, will be looking to supply chains to help find the answers.

Which brings us back to the starting question: what story will you be able to tell? Pointing to a policy document may not be enough – everyone will have those.

What if, instead of that, you could say that you’ve worked strategically with your recruitment partner. Through this you’ve taken the following positive actions:

  • Made sure that the image you present to anyone who searches for you on Google is welcoming.
  • You’ve tackled issues like flexible working.
  • You’ve taken positive steps to eliminate gender bias (including the stuff you didn’t realise you were doing) in job adverts, descriptions and selection.

These are all areas where Aptus Personnel can help. It’s one of the many ways that we work with our clients to implement practical solutions to their strategic recruitment and commercial challenges.