UK Women Working in Construction

By Roxanne Newton

Last week I ventured out of the office to attend the biggest annual networking event in the UK for women working in construction. A day organised by NAWIC stressed the importance of recognising the still present gender gap within our industry, the hyper-masculine culture that surrounds us daily and what we as a construction industry can do to make it a more attractive sector to want to operate in. Attendees were inclusively educated by a truly inspiring panel of influential women from all backgrounds (large tier 1 companies through to smaller family business); and it opened my eyes to how important it is to view women already working and wanting to work in this industry through unbiased eyes. Do not view us as the ‘other gender’, and see us for the skills and ability we can really bring to the table. I am fortunate enough to work for a company that celebrates diversity with a number of women operating in senior roles; flexi working; part time availability and for every employee regardless of gender to be presented with the same opportunities across the board. We as women at Robinson Manufacturing are recognised for our ability to succeed in construction, and encouraged to do so.

It is not a malicious industry that we operate in, it is somewhat natural due to our nature as humans to instil gender differences. The importance of raising the profile to encourage more women into construction needs to start at education level. We discussed how children learn role stereotyping as young as toddler age right through to university. If you’re female – you’re the princess. If you’re male – you’re a builder. This however innocent is instilling the reluctance into us as women to even consider the fact that we could be the builder, and our male counterpart can be the princess. I have a 9 year old daughter at home who has recently found an interest in mechanics – I will encourage and celebrate this openly; as much as I will talk to her about what I can do in my career.

Secondly, our culture needs to stop presenting construction as a ‘second option’ or a ‘fall back trade’. If you’re not academic, you’re viewed as vocational; if you don’t succeed at school ‘you can always learn a trade’. Learning a trade is one of the most important factors our economy needs to survive – construction is the biggest contributor toward a nations economic growth. These trades are invaluable. As an industry we need to be shouting to young women, and men alike, how rewarding it is to operate in an industry that can provide so much job satisfaction, routes to progression and personal reward. Blog about what you do on social media, teach the younger generation in your lives about the importance of construction and be a mentor to those looking for a career.

We have an obligation as an industry to personally take it upon ourselves to fill the gender gap (the skills gap alike) – no one else is going to do this for us. It is important that within this hyper-masculine industry women are presented with an environment in which they can thrive; allies are important to us in an industry where we have to fight to prove we can succeed. Networking offers us a platform to be able to find role models and connect with other women alike, to share growth, experience and industry ‘lessons learnt’.

I networked with women from all backgrounds – it was truly inspiring to see so many women enjoying the trade we work in, and celebrating this together. I will personally be setting myself a goal next year to work as hard as I can to stress how important it is to raise the profile of women already operating in this industry, and to encourage more women to do so.