IWD – Embracing Equity: Female representation in the construction industry

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IWD – Embracing Equity: Female representation in the construction industry

This International Women’s Day we want to talk about female representation in construction.

Women account for 17%* of the construction industry in the UK, which is also reflected at Speller Metcalfe. The numbers are growing – albeit slowly – but there is still some way to go before we see fair industry representation of female workers, who are critical to the progress of construction.

Case in point:

Our communications team recently completed a project to create site boards that demonstrate the expectations we have of our workforce in regards to PPE. The first idea was to use construction worker silhouettes or illustrations for the board, but an initial search was quite the eye opener – and not in a good way. While images of “male professional construction workers” were in abundance, we struggled to find “female professional construction workers” in construction PPE that weren’t in provocative poses or wearing the classic industry footwear… stilettos!

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Search result for ‘Construction worker female silhouette’
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Search result for ‘Construction worker male silhouette’


Now, we’re not saying that women can’t drill walls in heels, just that it’s probably not a good idea, and definitely doesn’t fit within PPE legislation. But there comes a point when we need to sit back and think about why images of women in construction do not reflect the professional women we see on our sites on a daily basis.

Speller Metcalfe is proud to have many women working for us in a variety of site roles including site managers, design managers, document controllers and quantity surveyors (not to mention the quantum of women who we work with as part of our wider project teams). We want to make sure that our staff feel well represented in all the marketing material we distribute, but also in the construction-related media they consume. It is important that all our staff feel seen, which is something our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team are pushing to ensure.


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We resulted in creating PPE boards using our own staff due to a lack of imagery


Diversity in the workforce is a non-negotiable, especially with a rising skills shortage, ageing population and most importantly, the opportunity to secure a wealth of untapped talent. But to attract a more diverse workforce, they need to see themselves represented, and ultimately, feel that they have a place in the industry.

While we accept there is a vast number of construction imagery that does represent women (photographs being key), we want to do our bit, however small, to help industry move with the times. As such, we have created a number of silhouette icons (see below) that we feel provide a more accurate picture of what professional women on site look like – the same as any man on site. We know that these images aren’t a critical change in the industry, but there is no reason for them not to be accessible, and we hope it’s a step in the right direction.

We recognise that we all have a long way to go to achieve true inclusivity and diversity, but really, there is no excuse for the top search results on Google to be unrepresentative of our professional women. So this International Women’s Day, let’s all do our bit to highlight the challenges we still need to address – together.


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*According to ONS, Feb 2023, comparing data between female and male construction workers

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