Number of women in construction doubles since 2013


There has been a significant increase in the number of women joining the construction industry, however, they are still significantly underrepresented, making up just 15% of the trades and construction industry

When Rebecca Gornall, Health and Safety Manager at Mansons TCLM Limited, first started her role in commercial construction six years ago she was one of the only females on site.

“Now there are a number of full-time female workers across all the sites I visit. This grows each year which will help with industry culture because it still has its traditional stereotypical construction tag. It’s a tough industry and there’s no political correctness involved.”

Gornall, whose father, brother and partner are in construction, is encouraging more females to join what she says is an exciting and dynamic industry.

“Every day you go to a site it’s different and constantly changing. It’s an incredibly dynamic and exciting environment – and that’s what I love about it, no day is the same.”

At the moment, the industry is made up of about 250,000 men and 40,000 women. Though the number of women is almost double what it was in 2013, for on-the-tools work, women are further underrepresented at just 4% of the workforce.

Lynne Hill, Safety Adviser at Site Safe New Zealand, is looking forward to the day when construction is not seen solely as a man’s job. Before working in construction, Hill served in the Air Force for 40 years.

“It never really entered my mind that construction was a male-dominated industry after the time I spent in the Air Force because there were women in combat, women pilots, and women doing a whole range of work,” she says.

However in construction, Hill says there is the occasional perception that if there are females on site, a male is going to have to carry their load.

“I beg to differ. I have seen some males that can’t carry as much as I can. Women are going into construction with their eyes wide open. They’re not blind to what construction is like and at the end of the day, I think you’ll find most women just get in there and do a great job.”

Hill says women simply being in the industry is helping change the culture.

“It is changing from the harden up and don’t cry culture to helping people. It’s all about being approachable. I just wish there were more women in construction. The more we get, then the better the culture will be. There will be less back chat, and it will become a normal environment for women to be, somewhere they can be themselves.”

Melissa Campbell, Health and Safety Manager from construction company LT McGuinness, has worked in construction for 14 years.

“For a long time, the biggest challenge for me was getting people to take me seriously as a young female in a management position. But the old school mentality around women being in construction is changing dramatically.”

She says companies are now looking to women for unique skills that brings something different to the industry.

“A mix of cultures and ages are important and together with gender diversity, it brings the chance to challenge each other, to be competitive, and to innovate and bring new ideas into the fold.”

Gornall says while a number of business industry leaders and managers are looking to employ more women, she is still a true believer in employing the right person for the job.

“It’s not about employing more females to catch up to the male dominated industry. It’s very much who is right for that role and the right fit for the team. I have worked alongside a number of women in construction, we definitely have unique skills, a real passion and a different way of thinking that has huge benefits for the industry.”

Construction safety and site management platform, HammerTech, takes the same approach. Chief Executive Ben Leach says HammerTech hires staff based on who it believes brings the right skills, experience, and perspective to a role.

“We don’t hire women because we need to hit a specific quota. However, it just so happens that about half of those hires are women.”

This year, to highlight how important women are to the industry, HammerTech is sponsoring the Women In Construction scholarship at the Site Safe 2024 Health, Safety, and Wellbeing Awards.

“In construction, women bring diversity not just through gender, but through critical thinking and leadership style. Employment opportunities are on the rise, career pathways are increasing, and the value of diversity is becoming more recognised in what has traditionally been a male dominated industry,” says Leach.