Let’s Talk About Sex!

The battle of the sexes, one of those cans of worms that sometimes should be left alone? At the launch of the BIM2050 group we were asked about the current number of women in the construction industry, and it sparked an interesting debate when the group debriefed afterwards.

It was the opinion of the group (which is 40% female) that there isn’t really a problem with the under representation of women in the industry and that it was an old fashioned question.


We did acknowledge the difference in possible communication methods based on generation but we felt as a group, the BIM2050 team were a generation of people who did not feel this issue was as relevant as some of the others we were presented with in the BIM debate.


Figure 1


Figure 1 shows the distribution of people employed between public and private sector, as expected the private sector is the larger employer at around 70% of the employed workforce. 


Figure 2


Figure 2 shows the balance of men and women in the private sector, this shows a good level of equality between them. 


Figure 3


Figure 3 shows the same balance for self-employment, this shows an imbalance weighted towards men at around 75% of the self-employed workforce.


Figure 4


Figure 4 shows the balance for the public sector. This shows a shift towards women being dominant in this group at 60% of the people employed in the public sector. This data shows a good level of equity between men and women in the total workforce in the UK. This would reflect the initial attitude of the group when we were asked “what about women in the construction industry” of, how is that a relevant question? Let’s take a look at the data for the construction industry and see if our attitude was wrong?


Figure 5



Figure 6


Figures 5 & 6 give a damming picture of the equity between men and women in the construction industry. This means our initial attitude was incorrect and dismissing the question as an irrelevant issue was not entirely correct. This demonstrates an important point, and gives a clear example of why the bigger picture of BIM is important. People by default, make assumptions. This is why so many projects go wrong; we base our opinions and decisions on subjective information based on our gut feelings. When presented with the actual data it paints a very different picture and something we need to address seriously should we drive change in the industry.


We need to start collecting real data, and to do so require a structure to collect it. This is why it is very frustrating that, for example, institutions are reluctant to work together. Imagine the combined data collection capabilities of the institutions! Something the team are very passionate about pushing and encouraging.


The industry is scattered in terms how it communicates this information. There are many governing bodies discussing issues in our industry and its relation to BIM without any concrete facts and due to their status people are listening. As we know, there is only so much we can ascertain from the data that currently exists, but we need to ensure this data is collected and shared in the industry so that we can silence those who do not see the issues we are currently presented with.


The main point of this research was to demonstrate that we should have a better understanding of our industry by looking at data and that there is still a poor equality of women in the industry. The team is actively engaging with as many groups and industry professionals to ensure we monitor and promote young women entering the industry and also understand how the gender gap ultimately influences the workplace and the way we interact.


Authors: Neil Thompson and Rebecca De Cicco

Statistics source: Office of National Statistics