When asked to write this article it brought a smile to my face. My initial thought were you are asking the wrong person. Having served in the army you soon realise that no matter who is stood next to you, you must believe and trust them and their capabilities. Up and down the chain of command everything or nothing matters. You must believe in their ability to do their job.
The construction industry should be the same. Now, how to write my opinion without upsetting someone and the PC brigade hanging me out to dry.
So here is my opinion. From a very young age I can remember no female construction workers. As a young plumbing apprentice in London, I was brought into a mans world. At school, no girls I knew wanted a trade. Not because they couldn’t do the job, but it was inbuilt that only men become tradesmen. It was not the right thing to do for any female. The stereotypical builder was a man. Dad’s passed the trade onto their sons. Children had to earn their pocket money, boys helping their dad and girls helping their mum. Yet going back to World War 2, the rebuilding of Waterloo Bridge was carried out by predominantly females, which is why it is referred to as Ladies Bridge.
I regularly attend schools and colleges at careers events. I am always so surprised at the lack of careers advice when it comes to construction in general. I truly believe that this approach to our younger generation needs to change now. When you ask students about construction careers the majority will always reply ‘I don’t want to be a bricklayer, plumber or carpenter’. Little do they know that there are thousands of career paths in the sector.
At present there are only 14% women in the industry; most occupy desk jobs in various roles such as Bid Writers, Quantity Surveyors, Construction Lawyers and Architects. Only 1% of workers on a construction site are women. The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineers on degree courses, despite girls outperforming boys at school in maths for almost two decades and more recently overtaking boys in school in physics.
The perception is that women would struggle in this industry due to sexism, the gender pay gap, maternity regulations, the list goes on, but its only perception. I work with several female colleagues who would beg to differ and would recommend the industry to all. What we all need to do is put the record straight. Tell our female population how good the opportunities are and will be over the coming years. Educate students about the whole construction industry. You don’t need to be as strong as an ox and already available technology such as the exoskeleton should remove that myth altogether. We have regulations that protect all workers. Sites are set up with both male and female facilities.
Going forward, I am a big believer that we all have a duty to promote the construction industry to our female population. Changes need to happen in schools to eradicate the perceptions that it is a man’s world.
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