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Thoughts on Being a Woman in Construction

I frequently have to ask to borrow a key for the ladies‘ toilets from the female members of the team on construction sites I visit. The key is fiercely guarded because otherwise, the convenience will quickly become an unpleasant experience. In the past (and sometimes even now) there may not have been a ladies‘ toilet at all, so you would need to go off to the bus station, the nearby fast food outlet or just hold on until returning to the office, too ashamed to raise the lack of consideration towards some kind of equality.

Is this a metaphor for being a woman in the construction industry? Is it only by protecting what we have gained so carefully that we can continue to be comfortable?

I’ve been in the industry 20 years now and consider myself something of an old maid. I always wanted to be considered as formidable; something of consequence, maybe even significant. I don’t know if I have achieved any of that but I do know that since I started out things have changed a lot. Site managers don’t dare to call me “love“ or “sweetheart“ anymore. The stereotyping and prejudice has maybe gone with an older generation who have now retired. I can work flexibly when my children are small, my health and safety is well considered. I can get site boots smaller than a size 6.

Over a decade ago, my CEO noticed that women could and should represent 50% of the management side of construction, but although there are definitely more women in management roles and consultancy disciplines, I still rarely sit in a meeting with more women with men. I hasten to add that as a result of the company drive for gender equality, there are a host of invaluable women within the workforce of Simons Group, with a fair few of our projects being gender balanced.

I have noted, however, a part of the construction sector where women are very definitely in the majority. Think of a place where the skill set has to be better matched. Nature and nurture combined. Could it be where there is an ability to empathise with people we don’t personally know and conjecture about the future needs of children as yet unborn? Some might say it’s because it’s about pretty plants, butterflies and fluffy animals (a bit girly). But it’s also about applied science, geography and maths (not traditionally considered girly). Of course, it’s the idea and application of sustainability to the built environment.

I recommend taking a demographic sample of the attendees at Ecobuild 2014 will show a much more even balance and I know why; the girls just get it.

Any thoughts on Rosi’s blog? How do you the the genders fare in construction? Do women get sustainability more? Please let us know, we would love to hear from you.Email: news@SimonsGroup.com with the heading “Building Greener“

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