Data belies efforts to reduce infrastructure sector gender pay gap

Out-Law Analysis | 11 Jul 2022 | 2:10 pm | 3 min. read

New data shows that infrastructure companies continue to struggle with reducing pay disparity between men and women, but action many of those companies are taking now should improve the position in the longer term.

Analysis by Pinsent Masons has found that a number of infrastructure companies are taking steps to encourage more women into employment in the sector, including senior leadership positions, and to retain that talent – action that promises to reduce the gender pay gap (GPG) over time and combat the skills gap impacting the sector too.

The latest GPG data

Approximately 353 employers in the infrastructure sector have reported their gender pay gap data for year 2021-22. The average median pay gap between male and female employees working for the infrastructure companies to have reported was 21.9%. This is significantly higher than the average across sectors for 2021-22, which the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported is 16.6%.

Due to the historical gender imbalance that significantly affects the infrastructure sector, senior roles are predominantly filled by men, and lower paid roles by women. Of the 353 GPG reports submitted in the sector, the average number of women in the lower pay quartile is 35%, compared to 14% average number of women in the top quartile. The data also shows that women working for large companies – classed as those with up to 4,999 employees – are paid more than one fifth (21.9%) less per hour than men, on average.

Comparisons over years

Many companies have reported that Covid-19 skewed their GPG data for 2020-21, showing the gap to actually be smaller than it is. They attributed this to the furloughing of staff performing on-site roles, which tend to be filled mainly by men. A greater proportion of women perform office-based roles which were less impacted by furlough.

Donaldson Susannah

Susannah Donaldson

Legal Director

Infrastructure employers are keen to address their pay gap and attract more women into the sector, not least as the skills shortage is being keenly felt in this sector

A review of the median hourly pay gap from 2017 to 2022 helps provide a better understanding of the GPG trends in the sector. It is apparent from that data that the GPG has remained fairly static in most companies over that period, changing by 1 to 2% only. Some infrastructure employers have made noticeable improvements, however. 

Initiatives being undertaken by employers

Infrastructure employers are keen to address their pay gap and attract more women into the sector, not least as the skills shortage is being keenly felt in this sector.

Recruiting and retaining women is vital. There has been a huge drive for companies to engage with young people, particularly young women, to attract new talent through STEM campaigns and engagement outreach programmes within local schools to promote the sector. Focus is also being placed on the proportions of women recruited for graduate or apprentice roles. Some companies are reporting that they are now managing to recruit more women than men at apprenticeship level.

The latest infrastructure sector GPG reports show that many companies are also implementing diversity targets to increase the number of women in infrastructure. Other companies have also invested in mandatory e-learning modules to ensure employees are equipped with the knowledge and awareness required to improve diversity and inclusion across all levels. Companies are also looking to promote flexible and family friendly policies as another incentive to attract and retain women.   

There are other examples of good initiatives undertaken by infrastructure employers too:

  • Wates has launched a new programme in partnership with Women into Construction (WiC) that promises to bring 125 women into the construction industry by 2025 to celebrate their 125th anniversary year. The programme started in July 2022. It aims to raise awareness, open opportunities and widen the industry talent pools. The partnership will provide for four employment schemes, each in a different area of the business, over two years, and aims to improve the gender balance within the construction sector to make it a more inclusive place for all.
  • Dounreay has committed to a set target of increasing the women in the workforce to 40% by 2030 to achieve a more equal gender balance across all roles.

Overall, the infrastrcture needs to do more to both attract women into the sector and to get them into senior, better paid positions. The latest GPG reports show that, to drive real change and reduce the pay gap in the long run, organisations need to invest in initiatives and nurture more inclusive cultures to attract and retain more women at all levels of seniority and support the progression of women through the ranks into senior positions .

Co-written by Lesley Finlayson of Pinsent Masons.