Women remain locked out of top positions at contractors, data shows

Women make up only one in nine of top positions at major construction firms, according to the latest gender equality data.

Across 13 top contractors, women occupied a median of 11 per cent of the highest-paid positions. That was, however, a slight improvement from last year’s median of 9.3 per cent.

An analysis of statutory gender pay gap data by Construction News and sister title New Civil Engineer also found that women make three-quarters of men’s hourly wages at top contractors. Last year, women earned a median of 27 per cent less than their male counterparts per hour.

Jennifer Winyard, national chair of Women in Property, said: “On the face of it, these figures suggest a faint glimmer of hope, in that the average pay gap appears to be reducing very slightly and the number of women at the higher end of the salary spectrum has increased, all of which is good news.

“However, disappointingly, the number of women at the lower end of the pay spectrum also shows an increase.

“Two companies are ‘outliers’, one of which is doing particularly well, the other has a shocking pay gap – if you remove both from the calculations this year, the mean pay gap has actually worsened even on the previous year’s figures.”

Out of the contractors, Costain had the greatest median gender pay gap, with women earning 60p for every £1 that men earn per hour. The firm’s gender pay gap increased to 40.2 per cent from 30.4 per cent last year.

Costain also had the lowest proportion of women among its ranks. Women occupied only 4 per cent of Costain’s highest-paid positions last year, and 15 per cent of its lowest-paid positions. No women received bonuses (although only 0.9 per cent of men did).

Chief executive Alex Vaughan wrote in Costain’s gender pay gap report: “We want to see diverse representation at all levels of the organisation and recognise that our relatively low levels of diversity in our senior management population is a contributing factor to our gender and ethnicity pay gaps.”

Amey reported the lowest gender pay gap, with women’s median hourly pay at 99.1 per cent of men’s. Also, the median woman earned £1.75 in bonuses for every £1 her male equivalent received.

However, the proportion of women in the highest-paid positions sat at 11 per cent, the median among all firms analysed.

Balfour Beatty, which has sat at the top of the CN100 for many years, reported a 23 per cent median gender pay gap. However, it paid 8 per cent more on average to women in bonuses, although only 20 per cent of female employees received bonuses compared with 37 per cent of men.

Chief executive Leo Quinn said: “Balfour Beatty’s gender pay gap stems from several factors, including the under-representation of women in senior and higher-paying roles, a challenge that pervades across our industry.

“Our strategy is not to address the gender pay gap in isolation but instead to attract more women into the business at every level; support each individual to thrive; and foster a culture that values each individual’s unique contributions.”

Katherine Evans, mining geologist and creator of women’s network Bold as Brass, said: “Everything is intertwined. Good on the companies that are going out of their way to create meaningful change for gender equity and to reduce gender pay gap in a society that has yet to catch up.

“We need to see an acknowledgment from leaders of business, organisations, even governments that we have been expecting female people to be plonked into environments created around the needs of the male and left to battle it out.

“We won’t see meaningful change in gender pay gaps, diversity and wellbeing stats, sexual threat in the workplace, or a reduction in the skills gap until we create spaces made for all people to exist in.”

Women consultants fared slightly better in comparison with their contractor peers, with the median gender pay gap at 21.1 per cent and nearly one in five of top positions held by women.

Turner & Townsend performed the best, with a pay disparity of 11 per cent and women earning double their male counterparts in bonuses.

Clients narrow the gap

Clients reported even lower pay inequality, although two did not provide their gender pay gap data by the statutory deadline.

Women earned a median 90p for every £1 men made an hour, and were better represented in high-ranking positions. Women made up 30.9 per cent of the highest-paid positions among the profiled clients, and 41.6 per cent of the lowest-paid.

Major client the Environment Agency reported no gender pay gap in median hourly pay or bonuses. Women occupied close to half – 42.6 per cent – of the highest-paid positions.

Companies with more than 250 employees were legally obliged to submit gender pay-gap data for 2023/24 by midnight on 4 April.

Company name Hourly pay gap women v men (median) Upper quarter of hourly pay % women Lower quarter of hourly pay % women Median bonus pay gap
Amey 0.9% 11.0% 7.0% -75.0%
Balfour Beatty 23.0% 13.0% 33.0% -8.0%
BAM Nuttall 17.0% 13.5% 23.0% 64.1%
Bouygues 30.7% 8.0% 42.9% 33.3%
Costain 40.2% 4.0% 15.0% 100.0%
Graham 34.1% 7.8% 32.7% 40.0%
ISG 25.2% 5.4% 36.1% 64.0%
Kier 24.3% 15.0% 40.0% 0.0%
Laing O’Rourke 7.7% 13.1% 21.2% 33.3%
Morgan Sindall Group (Infrastructure done through Morgan Sindall Infrastructure) 29.0% 12.0% 38.0% 28.9%
Sir Robert McAlpine 30.5% 9.9% 31.0% 95.5%
Skanska 23.0% 14.9% 39.9% 24.8%
VolkerWessels UK 25.8% 9.9% 36.1% 25.0%
Mean 24.0% 10.6% 30.5% 32.8%
Median 25.2% 11.0% 33.0% 33.3%
Aecom  17.8% 17.6% 37.9% 18.0%
ARCADIS HUMAN RESOURCES 18.3% 20.7% 40.7%  19.4%
Arup 13.3% 29.4% 48.2% 25.6%
Atkins 15.9% 20.4% 38.8% 14.1%
Buro Happold 22.3% 25.7% 55.5% 11.1%
Cowi 26.0% 15.0% 43.0% 25.0%
Jacobs 21.6% 17.2% 43.3% 15.0%
Mott MacDonald 19.7% 19.9% 44.0% 13.6%
Ramboll 20.9% 18.6% 46.3% 42.7%
RoyalHaskoningDHV  25.3% 11.0% 49.0% 12.3%
STANTEC UK LIMITED 22.7% 20.5% 43.6% 20.0%
Systra 21.3% 14.6% 36.5% 10.5%
Tetra Tech 23.6% 14.9% 43.3%  0%
Turner & Townsend 11.1% 33.8% 48.6% -100.0%
Waterman 16.4% 15.4% 43.6% 16.9%
WSP 23.0% 19.3% 41.9% 59.3%
Mean 19.7% 19.6% 44.0% 13.2%
Median 21.1% 19.0% 43.5% 16.0%
British Land 21.9% 30.0% 68.0% 45.1%
Canal and Rivers Trust 15.3% 33.4% 27.7% 0.0%
Environment Agency 0.0% 42.6% 39.6% 0.0%
High Speed 2 23.4% 25.0% 57.0% 27.8%
National Grid overdue
National Highways 5.1% 30.9% 40.1% 4.2%
Natural Resources Wales 3.1% 40.0% 48.0% n/a
Network Rail 9.3% 14.6% 27.1% 0.0%
Scottish Water 7.6% 43.0% 46.0% 12.1%
SSE overdue
Thames Water 10.8% 27.0% 41.0% 25.0%
Transport for London 8.6% 26.8% 41.6% 0.0%
United Utilities 14.3% 34.8% 49.0% 9.9%
Mean 10.9% 31.6% 44.1% 12.4%
Median 9.3% 30.9% 41.6% 7.1%


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