Women in construction: state of play on international women’s rights day 2024

According to the Transition pathway for construction of the European Commission, women still only make up around 10 % of the construction workers in Europe. This figure consists mainly in women in administrative and technical positions, while those actively working on construction sites is a smaller group. This means that there is a huge talent pool untapped and that attracting women to the sector could also help in facing another big challenge of the construction industry, the aging workforce.

Although the conversation about gender inequality in construction has gained momentum in recent years and several studies have been published highlighting the insufficient representation of women in the sector, the figures remain static.

The low representation of women in the European construction workforce can be explained by more than the nature of the tasks themselves. Outdated perspectives on gender issues and biases have regrettably contributed to the construction sector keeping its reputation as only-men career.

Fortunately, more and more initiatives are being taken at European and national level to raise the profile of this important issue. Proud to have 5 women on its Board of Directors, EBC always seek to raise the profile of female construction ambassadors in its efforts to promote greater awareness of the construction sector. On this important and symbolic day of 8 March, EBC wanted to highlight some of the recent actions taken by its members to improve the participation and visibility of women in the construction sector.

In Belgium, the construction sector had 27,925 women in 2023, which is 732 more than in 2022 and even 1,803 more than in 2021. While the number of women may be increasing, their overall share remains limited in percentage terms. Last year, 9.5% of all those working in construction were women, compared with 9.3% in 2022 and 8.7% in 2021. Moreover, there are big differences depending on the statute. Among blue collar workers, women represent only 1.2% of the total, while among white collar workers it is 36.9%. However, the increase among self-employed workers is striking: 6.4% in 2023 compared to 5.6% in 2021. Thus, more construction companies have a woman at the helm. To maintain this growing trend, and to mark 8 of March, EBC member Bouwunie announced a podcast series titled “Women in construction” (available on Spotify here), to give a platform for women to voice their own experiences in the Belgian construction sector.

In the Bouwunie podcast “Vrouw in de Bouw,” active women in construction talk about the pros and cons of the sector itself and entrepreneurship in honest and transparent exchanges.Click here to access the podcast!

In France, EBC member CAPEB has had for many years a dedicated national committee to women in construction, the Commission Nationale des Femmes de l’Artisanat(National Committee for Craftswomen, in English) which brings together women entrepreneurs, female workers and entrepreneur’s partners. In France, if you are married, in a civil partnership or in a common-law relationship with an entrepreneur and you work actively and regularly in the company, you have to apply for 3 possible official statuses: collaborating partner, associate partner or employed partner (in French, conjoint collaborateur, conjoint associé or conjoint salarié). This female branch of CAPEB ambitions at promoting gender diversity and equality in the workplace and in the building trades, at encouraging and facilitating females’ entrepreneurship to push for a greater professional recognition for women.

This year, the CAPEB launched the campaign “Bâtir la mixite” (Building Gender Equality, in English) to mark International Women’s Rights Day. Committed to increasing the gender balance of its governing bodies, the CAPEB network has undertaken to identify new female administrators from among its members to make gender balance a reality within CAPEB bodies and to respond to their apprehensions about taking on representation responsibilities.

Against this backdrop, 12 female CAPEB representatives, who exemplify diversity and skills at the service of the collective, wanted to shed their own personal light on the subject through testimonials collected in the communication campaign.For more information about the CAPEB’s campaign, click here

In addition to that, EBC also aims at raising the topic of women in construction in its involvement in EU-funded projects. For instance, two Horizon Europe Projects in which EBC is a partner, HumanTech and BEEYONDERS, are trying to better integrate gender and morphology considerations in their development of wearables and exoskeletons, for a construction sector that is safer, more inclusive, and more appealing to women and youth.

EBC strongly believe that a more inclusive environment is a need to face the challenging skills situation and will contribute to the growth and success of the construction sector. The above-mentioned actions are only a few signs of the evolution of the construction sector.