Women in construction

Women in construction

Why should we be talking about women in construction? Surely, the fact that it’s been a male-dominated industry for so long doesn’t really matter; after-all, how many women really want to work in such a dirty environment? It does matter because lots of women do work in construction, and we need to ensure that they are treated fairly and have the same opportunities as men. But there are other reasons too.

Surveys show that companies that have a diverse workforce – of gender, race, social backgrounds, age and experience – are more productive than those that stick rigidly to the same employment structure they’ve always had. 

Put simply, different people have differing ideas, and innovation comes through a variety of viewpoints being expressed. Moreover, when employees feel valued as part of a team, they are more likely to do their utmost to ensure that their work is performed to their best ability, which in turn benefits their company.

Be committed, be passionate

The themes of employees having an equal stake in a company were discussed in the Women In Construction seminar at the London Build Expo trade show. The two-day show was billed as a ‘festival of construction’ and featured exhibitors from all sectors of the industry, including multi-national organisations, infrastructure creators, independent house-builders, component manufacturers, and equipment rental companies.

One notable aspect of the seminar was that the panel of speakers was made up of men and women. Megan Robinson, a technical co-ordinator for a UK housebuilder and co-founder of Built By Both, a campaign to inspire young women to embark on careers in the construction industry, was one of the panel guests. She spoke of the need for women to challenge gender stereotypes and make their voices heard. Robert Baker, co-president of international human resources consultancy, Mercer, said that the creation of positive role models is important, and that the notion of equality must be taught in schools and be prevalent in families’ everyday home life.

Andy Dean, from Building Site To Boardroom – a non-profit organisation that offers training programmes – spoke of the need for general well-being in the workplace, and for employees to talk openly about stress and mental health. Perhaps the most inspiring comments came from Kathryn Lennon-Johnson, the found of Built Environment Skills in Schools, a project that aims to address a skills gap in construction. She concluded the discussion by saying: “Be committed and passionate about what you do and want to change. A change is coming; our time is coming. There’s nothing that can stop us.”

All colleagues are integral to a project

Among the attendees of the seminar were construction photographer, Hemma Mason, and structural engineer, Niki Koniari. As the only woman in a team of 30, Niki has to make her voice heard, but says that on one site visit, the client asked if her boss would be arriving soon. As she tells it, she deflected the question with humour, but it’s an indication of the attitudes that many women face in such male-dominated industry.

Of course, the world of construction is not just about a physical building site, but it also takes into account all the surrounding activities that contribute to the process – such as planning, design, financial management, human resources, certification procedures, and other general business actions – many of which are carried out by women, and they are all integral to the whole final product.

An architectural project courtesy of Hemma Mason Photography

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