Earlier this month, Lendlease became the first construction and property company to publish its figures under the government’s gender pay gap reporting scheme.

Gender pay gap

Large companies must now report their gender pay disparities - Source: Shutterstock/Ian Johnston

All organisations that employ more than 250 people will have to report their gender pay gap - the difference in the average earnings of men and women, regardless of their role or seniority - by next April and update the figures annually.

Lendlease’s analysis found that while men and women received the same pay for the same roles, women were paid 19.2% less than men across its UK business and 30% less across its UK construction business on average due to having fewer women in the business and in senior roles.

“It is no secret that like many industries, the property and construction sectors suffer from female under-representation, which is particularly pronounced at senior levels,” says Dan Labbad, Lendlease’s chief executive, international operations.

“This is something Lendlease is determined to address by attracting more women to the industry and supporting the development of more women into senior roles.

“If we fail to take proactive action, both as a company and as an industry, then we will all suffer as a whole. By attracting more women to the industry and supporting their development into senior roles, we can all realise the benefits greater diversity brings.”

Property Week caught up with Lisa White, Lendlease Europe’s head of culture and HR, to find out more.

Lisa White

Lisa White

Why did you think it was important to get on the front foot?

We did actually talk about this at the regional team leadership level in terms of what our approach was going to be. There are a lot of organisations out there that are choosing to take the alternative approach, which is to say: “Well, it’s not going to be good news, so let’s go last and hide.” We did say that is a legitimate way forward, but we felt in terms of Lendlease as an organisation and who we are that wasn’t how we wanted to approach the reporting.

How do you feel about the figures as they stand?

We know that our figures aren’t great, just like everyone else, but it’s also something we feel very passionate about in terms of changing. We’ve been on this journey for some time, so we felt that we wanted to get out there and take a leadership role in this conversation.

We have to be careful because we don’t have all the answers, so it’s about getting out there and saying: “This is difficult, we don’t know all the answers, but we’re absolutely committed to it.” We actually like the legislation because it is bringing about change and we want to be part of that change and leading that change.

Can you explain the disparity between the overall UK business and the UK construction business?

We chose to report for the overall UK business as well as UK construction, although we only had to report for the construction business. It’s all to do with your employing entities and you only have to report where you have an entity of more than 250 employees. But again we felt that we wanted to go beyond what we were required to do by reporting on our whole UK business.

The pay gap for the construction business is just over 30%, but for the overall business it’s 19.2%. It shows the difference between construction and the development business, which does have a lot more females. That’s endemic in the construction industry.

Why do you think that is?

It’s about attracting people into the sector. You’re still based on a construction site and that still has a certain reputation in terms of being dirty, with long hours and being very male dominated. It’s not necessarily going to attract so many females, but it has changed a lot.

Some of those aspects are what people think about construction sites rather than the reality of it. So I think that’s where we’ve got to get out there and do a better job of telling people what we actually do and what those jobs entail, as well as the fact that they really are open to everybody.

Construction woman

Lendlease is determined to address the 30% gender pay gap in its construction business - Source: Shutterstock/hxdyl

Presumably, if you get that message out and you’re able to hire more younger women, the gender gap figures should improve as those people rise through the ranks?

Absolutely, but I believe that this will take a huge effort. As a woman in business for more than 30 years, I haven’t seen a huge amount of change. I think we’ve got to be careful about thinking we can do this from the bottom up.

You do have to have a reporting strategy that is looking at every single level and how you can accelerate that change. That is something we have been doing. It’s much easier to take a broader view and look to other industries to attract more diverse talent.

It takes a different mindset, and our experience is that it can be harder and take longer. I don’t think it will just change, which is why this legislation is so good. It’s not just about the figures - it’s about what companies are going to do about it and then being able to demonstrate annually that improvements are being made.

I believe that you have already made improvements in representation at the executive level…

In the past 18 months we have increased senior female representation from 24% to 29% - and are currently targeting 33% by 2020. And we will keep on going until we get to 50/50. But it does take a lot of effort to make that happen.

What is the difference between pay equality and the gender pay gap?

Equal pay for equal work is about like-for-like and we’ve been looking at that for some years now, making sure that for a man in a role or a woman in a role there is no gap. We can very confidently say that we have achieved that. We have no equal pay gap. The reason we can say that is because of a framework we put in five years ago, which really does classify every single role.

Gender pay is about representation - average earnings of all men against average earnings of all women, so if you have fewer women at a senior level that is what causes these high figures. But it’s still very important because it’s about representation. It’s about balance and that balance isn’t there at the moment.

What is your future strategy?

We think that leadership is really key. We did actually go out before the legislation came into play and benchmarked ourselves through the National Equality Standard.

The reason we exposed ourselves was that we wanted to understand and get some guidance on where we needed to focus.

That did actually give us a clear indication that we weren’t doing enough at a leadership level. We also split things down at different levels in terms of targets.

Can you give me an example of how you do that?

We went to a headhunter to recruit for a senior role and said that we wanted a balanced shortlist. The first shortlist wasn’t balanced, the second shortlist wasn’t balanced and it was only through us saying “we’re not going to proceed until we have a balanced shortlist” that all of a sudden we got our balanced shortlist and we got some additional female candidates.

And actually, through that process, we ended up with one female and one male in contention and the female got the role. And she’s been superb.