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The construction industry has historically been male-dominated, posing significant challenges for women striving to advance their careers.

Recent efforts have been made to challenge these conventions and create more inclusive spaces for women to thrive. At CoreNet’s Global APAC Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Pui Kheng Lee, Delivery Lead at Unispace Southeast Asia, and Michelle Jane Mitchell, Sub Regional Workplace Lead – ASEAN at HSBC, highlighted the importance of empowering women in the construction industry to break barrier and build opportunities.

The gender gap in the construction industry

According to a 2023 McKinsey Report, the global construction industry represents 13% of the world’s GDP, but only 14% of its workforce identifies as female. This gender disparity emphasizes the need for initiatives aimed at empowering women in the sector.

A primary challenge women face in construction is the pervasive stereotype they are only fit for junior roles and are often judged based on their appearance and emotional demeanor rather than their professional capabilities. Pui Kheng Lee and Michelle Jane Mitchell challenge these traditional notions, advocating for respect and equality from their male counterparts.

Other factors to consider encompass workplace gender gaps, spanning differences in qualifications, pay packages, and career advancement opportunities. 

Promoting diversity in design and construction

Amid these challenges, progress is being made as we along with other global companies prioritize Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) initiatives—providing more opportunities for women.

HSBC, for instance, has seen a notable increase in female representation in its leadership team, rising from 30% in 2020 to 34.1% in the current year, with further growth projected to reach 35% by 2025. Similarly, we are actively fostering an environment conducive to the advancement of women, with leaders like Pui Kheng Lee and Joanne Morris, Head of Design and Delivery, Unispace Asia, spearheading major initiatives within our teams.


Unispace’s Art for Impact initiative with Casa Congo supports Nicaraguan women who design and create unique tapestries from recycled plastic bags.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) is not just a concept but a call to action, demanding concrete actions to cultivate inclusive workplaces. While the road to gender equality in the construction industry may be long and challenging, initiatives like those championed by Pui Kheng Lee, Michelle Jane Mitchell, and their respective organizations serve as beacons of hope, signaling a more inclusive and promising future for women in this field. Through continued advocacy, empowerment, and action, we can break down barriers and build a more equitable and prosperous construction industry for all.

Check out more coverage on women in construction

Niaga Spotlight: Construction industry - Building the future

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