When it comes to diversity, good intentions aren’t matching on the ground outcomes

Despite the crippling skills shortages across Australia’s construction industry, just four in 10 construction decision-makers think women will play an important role in the industry over the next decade, according to a new report from Procore.

This is one of the most surprising findings from Procore’s latest research report, How We Build Now: Tracking Technology in Construction.

Procore surveyed 1,138 construction leaders to benchmark technological advancements and business practices across an expanded geographical scope of Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines and Singapore, as well as Australia.

Sentiment across the region is strong. In fact, 91% of respondents feel confident in the 12 months ahead. But this falls to 85% in Australia.

Australia’s construction industry is undoubtedly battening down the hatches to survive a perfect storm of rising commodity prices, materials shortages, labour squeezes and other supply chain risks.

Aside from the cost of raw materials – which was the top headache with 63% of Australian respondents – hiring and retaining skilled staff is the issue that is keeping construction leaders up at night.

And yet, according to Procore’s report, just 42% of respondents thought women would play a key part in the construction workforce over the next 10 years.

While more than half (54%) of the 314 Australian respondents had diversity and inclusion policies, just 12% of site managers are women, 18% of trade staff and 21% of team leaders. Compare this to the Philippines where women account for 28% of site manager roles, 21% of team leaders and 32% of trade staff.

Procore’s report suggests good intentions are not translating into on-the-ground outcomes and that shifts in attitudes are still needed to build a diverse and resilient construction workforce.

Speaking at the launch of Procore’s report, Dominique Gill, Managing Director of fast-growing construction company Urban Core, noted that Australia’s third largest employer was missing out on the talent pool of half the population.

Dominique was presented the National Association of Women in Construction’s highest honour this year – the NAWIC Crystal Vision Award – in recognition of her work to champion women in construction. And Ms Gill message for the construction industry was crystal clear. “Women aren’t choosing careers in construction because there isn’t the belief that they belong there.”

The reasons why women are overlooking construction are well documented. Construction’s long hours, lack of flexibility and recruitment practices have all deterred women. One study from the University of Technology Sydney discovered that parents of talented female high school students discourage them from careers in construction. Another found men’s informal networks helped them climb the construction career ladder much faster than their female peers.

Dominique challenged the audience at Procore’s launch to spread the word that construction is the “world’s best kept secret” by promoting construction as a career in schools.

Matt Press, Executive Director of Compliance and Dispute Resolution at SafeWork NSW, noted that diversity was a business imperative. The construction industry is facing a “huge churn” over the next decade as a large chunk of the workforce retires, he said. “We have to look at what an attractive industry looks like for the next generation – and if we work on that then females will come along.”

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