Believe it or not, I have been asked to facilitate a panel event around women in my sector of the construction industry at an event in March.
They said they wanted somebody outspoken, passionate and with strong views – I can’t think why they asked me!
It’s something I’m really looking forward to, as I don’t believe in pushing women into roles within our industry just to tick a box. Organisations and companies benefit in terms of results when they have a mix of men and women on the board.
Our drive to bring more people into the industry should continue to look at ways of attracting more women and I think those females already working in our sector show what they can bring.
A more approachable way
There is plenty of research that shows how girls and boys start to form stereotypes at an early age about what they can be and what they can achieve.
As things stand, our type of work – especially at operative level – is more likely to attract men. There are exceptions: just recently I watched in awe as two women tore down a stud wall with pick hammers – not only were they good at it, they looked like they were having a whale of a time.
“Our girls should not have to put up with that sort of behaviour from the start – behaviour I believe the industry now rejects”
So while we can’t stereotype, we do have to recognise that men and women think differently and, therefore, we have to find ways to be approachable to everyone in order to bring the best talent through.
Of course, not every job demands hard labour and it’s crucial that we get that message across loud and clear – especially to young women and men.
They might not feel cut out for a career as an operative on site, but there are dozens of other disciplines in construction that require the best talent – including estimators, surveyors, bid writers and HR. We are beginning to see changes as women come into the health & safety and environmental elements of the industry.
Times are changing
As a woman in construction, I was definitely treated differently when I first started out. There were certain clients who I just couldn’t go and see because they wouldn’t take me seriously – not because of anything I’d done but purely because they had a pre-conceived idea of a woman in this industry.
Thankfully, I don’t come across that now – partly because times have changed and partly because I’ve grown stronger over the years and know how to deal with individuals like that.
However, our girls should not have to put up with that sort of behaviour from the start – behaviour I believe the industry now rejects.
Again, I am not one who tries to suggest that men and women are the same. We’re not, but I think that those differences in the way we think and work can be a huge asset to the industry.
I don’t have all the answers, but I hope we can provoke a few questions. It’s in all of our interests to bring the best people through into our great industry and to make sure the next generation is best equipped to meet the challenges of the future head on.
Julie White is the managing director of D-Drill