Something very unusual happened yesterday evening at the launch party of Construction News’ Inspire Me campaign.
It wasn’t a typical construction event, where you would usually see a sea of suits and ties when scanning the room of guests. After all, men account for roughly 87 per cent of the industry.
But at the launch party of Inspire Me, a glimpse was offered into what the industry could look like if women made up around 50 per cent of the workforce.
So based on last night, what could this industry be like?
Quite simply, incredibly dynamic.
From female chief executives running global businesses to female crane operators turning traditional perceptions of construction on its head, the very best examples of female leadership in the industry were crammed into one room.
Guests at the launch party included the chief executives, board members and chairs of Bouygues, Mabey Group, Willmott Dixon, Osborne, Bowmer & Kirkland and CITB. It also included clients from Scape to Landsec and the Cabinet Office.
Willmott Dixon chief HR officer Rick Lee spoke about why gender diversity makes business sense and appealed for companies to weigh in behind Inspire Me, as the contractor sets new ambitious targets for gender diversity.
Guests heard from three women who are showing leadership as they embark on careers in construction.
Interserve project manager Lianne Lawson discovered she was pregnant during her second year of university while studying for her construction degree.
“There were tears of joy, but also of fear,” she recalled, going back to the moment she found out she was pregnant.
But she fought to achieve her dream with support from her employer, juggling learning the ropes of being a new mother with finishing her construction degree. She is now managing teams on big projects such as work on the University of York.
Select crane operator Katie Kelleher’s influence in promoting construction as a career for everyone, regardless of gender, has been widespread. Speaking on national broadcast media, she proves that anyone can succeed in any career in construction – onsite or otherwise.
However, Ms Kelleher also faced her own challenges at the start of her career. She said felt like an “alien” when she first arrived on site as she was the only woman.
But her success shows that gender is irrelevant in excelling in traditionally male-dominated roles.
Tideway health, safety and wellbeing coordinator Leena Begum has designed PPE for women on construction sites who observe the hijab and burka.
She was distressed by the lack of appropriate PPE available for her to adhere to her religious values. But with the support of another muslim woman who was experiencing the same issues, Ms Begum discussed this issue with Tideway and designed her own PPE for women on site who observe the hijab and burka.
Furthermore, she is one of two women in her family to enter into the construction workplace.
Although these women have shown incredible leadership by overcoming challenges posed by the industry, it reveals a critical problem faced by construction.
Those barriers should not be there in the first place. Which is exactly why Inspire Me has been launched.
In the meantime, CN will equip women with the necessary skills to break down these barriers and advance their careers.
But the industry desperately needs to remove these barriers so that incredible female talent can do their part to drive this industry forward.
Inspire Me’s headline partner is Willmott Dixon. Our supporters are: Mabey Group; NASC; Trad; Randstad; VGC Group; and Bowmer & Kirkland.
Inspire Me events will take place in London, Manchester, Birmingham and at the CN Summit in November in 2018.
See https://inspireme.constructionnews.co.uk for further information.