Construction Industry requires more female workers to solve Ireland’s housing and infrastructure crises

Survey shows just over 70% of construction companies recognise the need for more women in the industry

Industry aims to increase proportion of female workers in the industry from 10% to 25% by 2030 

A survey by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has found that on average approximately only 1 out of 10 construction workers are female. The survey found that on construction sites, 99% of workers are male, whilst in offsite roles, 54% are male and 46% are female. Of those women working in construction roles considered ‘offsite’ the majority work in administration, finance, HR and marketing.

The survey results were released as the CIF launches a year-long awareness campaign to increase the number of women working in the industry – #BuildingEquality.

Jean Winters, Director of Industrial Relations with CIF and Chair of the #BuildingEquality Working Group said;

“Today, is the start of a national effort to bring more women into the construction industry. Increasing the proportion of women in construction can yield significant increases in terms of output and productivity. Studies have shown that increasing female participation, particularly in leadership roles throughout industry, at managerial and CEO level, can lead companies to improve profitability by up to 15%.”

The CIF survey comes in the wake of the announcement of the Government’s €116 billion National Development Plan.  This plan will increase construction activity significantly over its lifetime of 10 years. In 2016, DKM consultants and SOLAS predicted that the industry would need 112,000 additional employees up to 2020 to meet the demands of Government strategies in housing and infrastructure.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys TD said:

“The Government fully supports the efforts of the CIF, through the #BuildingEquality campaign, in seeking to enhance gender equality within the construction sector. As the economy approaches full employment, continued growth will depend on our ability to address potential labour shortages, with expansion of female participation in the labour market playing a major role in the Government’s response.

As the CIF’s research has highlighted, addressing the gender imbalance within Construction has a prominent role to play in addressing potential skills shortages in the coming years. With the sector’s projected growth, and its central role in supporting the enterprise agenda through infrastructural development, I can therefore assure you of my full backing for these efforts.”

Shane Dempsey, CIF Communications Director said:

“Increasing diversity and gender equality is not just the right thing to do; in our industry, we face significant skills shortages in light of the significant level of construction activity in the pipeline and recruiting more women into industry is critical.  As our industry recovers and evolves, we are increasingly competing with other sectors for talented young people who are concerned about equality and diversity.

It’s increasingly apparent that if we are to deliver the 35,000 needed to resolve the housing crisis and the €116 billion outlined in the National Development Plan, we need to radically increase the number of workers entering the industry at all levels. 

It’s not just onsite trades and craftspeople required in this phase of construction.   Construction businesses will need to enhance their managerial, financial, operations, marketing, technological and human resources to deliver modern construction. If women feel that this industry is not for them, we will never meet the ambition of Government strategies. Careers in construction have become more family-friendly, more technology driven, safer, less physically demanding and increasingly global in recent years.  So, there are major opportunities in the industry.  At the moment, wages are rising as demand for construction activity is increasing and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

We have a lot of work to do. Whilst 70% of companies recognise that the industry needs more women, a low percentage have structures in place to achieve this.

The #BuildingEquality campaign is asking male and female leaders in the industry to set the example and put equality at the top of their agenda. Our survey showed 85% of respondents believed that female role models are important, in speaking to both young women in the industry and to young girls considering their career options.  Yet, only 4% of companies were engaged in actively facilitating this.”

CIF, President, Dominic Doheny said:

“Increasing the number of women in construction is a key objective of the CIF from this point on. As part of our #BuildingEquality 2018 campaign we are focused on removing barriers to women building careers in construction. I believe that from the youngest age, young girls are dissuaded from even considering working in construction and engineering, so by the time, these young girls have grown up they have been consciously and unconsciously deterred from our industry. We, as an industry, need and very much want to address this.”

Tom Parlon, CIF Director General said: 

“The construction industry requires up to 112,000 additional workers up to 2020 so we need to make our industry more attractive to young people. The industry is changing and there are increasingly more tech-driven job opportunities, in addition to marketing, finance, IT roles in Irish construction companies operating in Ireland and around the world. There are so many varied and interesting career paths in construction in addition to the traditional on-site trades for both men and women.  The CIF #BuildingEquality campaign is about encouraging more young women to consider construction as a viable option for them and about changing the view that construction is ‘just for the boys.’”

CIF teams up with Lottie Dolls to break gender stereotyping of industry

As part of the #BuildingEquality campaign, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has joined forces with the Donegal toymaker behind Lottie Dolls to break down traditional perceptions of the industry as being ‘just for boys.’

Throughout our discussions with many women working the industry over the past 12 months, the fact that girls are often deterred from playing with construction related toys, or exploring what may be considered stereotypically ‘boys interests’ from a very early age, has come up time and time again.

Like the Construction Industry Federation, Lottie Dolls support the breaking down of stereotypical and traditional norms, which tell young women from an early age that certain areas of interest are ‘not for them.’

Construction is a creative, exciting industry, that is becoming more diverse and inclusive. The CIF is dedicated to encouraging more women and girls into the industry.

Ian Harkin, Lottie Doll Co-Founder and CEO, said:

“Since starting Lottie we have been empowering kids, in particular girls with STEM related activities. We want to show girls they can achieve anything and to encourage them to challenge gender stereotypes. Lottie has been to some of the major space training sites around the world with Dr. Niamh Shaw (Irish Astronaut in training), she even visited the International Space Station as part of British astronaut Commander Tim Peaks mission spending 264 days on the space station, flying up in Orbital ATKs cargo ship and returning on Space X’s capsule. This International Women’s day we are partnering with the Construction Industry Federation to highlight careers for females in Construction. Before working in Toys, I worked for a large UK construction company, my first boss there was a woman and she was an inspiring leader. The industry has come a long way in the last 10 years and many women are now represented at the top table in the industry, which is amazing, if they can see women in these roles, young girls know that they too can achieve it, which is what this is all about.”

For more information on Lottie see

For more on the CIF #BuildingEquality 2018 Campaign check out:




In recognition of the need for the sector to be more inclusive, the CIF engaged Accuracy Market Research to conduct interviews with its members to measure attitudes towards the issue of improving the gender balance and to explore the benefits of including more women in the workforce.

Key Findings:

·       The construction sector continues to be male dominated with the average percentage breakdown of men to women estimated at 89% and 11% respectively.

·       Men (ie 97%: Managing Director/CEO) continue to occupy the more senior roles within the industry and also account for 99% of on-site positions.

·       The lack of gender balance is a recognised issue in the industry with 72% acknowledging a shortage of women in the sector and 65% agreeing that the industry is missing out by failing to attract female graduates.

·       The low number of women within the industry is viewed to be a product of gender stereotyping (ie. construction is male oriented and unsuitable for women), a view that pervades all levels of society including primary and second level education.

·       There is broad agreement that there is a need for an improved gender balance within the sector.

Key Quotes from survey respondents:

“I think many women when they think of the construction industry think or hard hats, cold weather, dirty building sites and a lot of physical labour. Add to that a perception that it is male oriented and you can see why it may not be viewed as an attractive career for a woman.” (senior female professional)

“I don’t think the parents and most kids at school and even the career guidance teachers have any real understanding of what it is like to work in the industry. How could they? The industry has changed so much in the last 20 years and they have no experience of this.” (employer mid-sized company)

“We really need to be in the schools from primary to second level, really showing young people the types of careers they can have and the range of skills and professions for them to consider. Girls need to be informed that there are plenty of interesting opportunities and avenues open to them in this area.” (employer mid-sized company)

“We need to let women know that one size does not fit all and that if the academic route does not work out for whatever reason there are other ways to forge a career in the sector. This might be doing an apprenticeship in any number of trades which they may then choose to work in or they might decide at a later date to go on to college. Whatever they decide to do the main thing is that they have options.” (senior female professional)

“I do not believe in choosing a candidate just because she is a woman, but I do believe that having more women in the company benefits everyone. In my experience women make great designers, planners and project managers, they are very methodical and less inclined to shoot from the hip. They can often come at things from a different angle and one that is non-confrontational, it often helps you see things slightly differently and that ultimately leads to more rounded decision making.” (employer large company)

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