It’s International Women’s Day and Faye Young, Regional Manager (London and South East) for Group SCS, looks at how there are many opportunities for women in construction – and at how we can show young people it really is a great industry to work in…

The fact that I stumbled across a career in construction by sheer chance is a tell-tale sign. It demonstrates the reality that our industry is not at the forefront for women choosing a career and the problem extends to young people in general.

Construction isn’t seen as a “cool” or “sexy” industry to work in, like media or tech, and typically wouldn’t have the same financial appeal as a career in financial services. The immediate perception is safety boots, a hard hat, and a hi-vis jacket.

It’s my view that the built environment is a key indicator of a country’s economic status and engineering prowess and an industry that we should be very proud of. I don’t think young people are aware of the variety of careers construction can offer, and the difficulty we face is encouraging more young people to engage with the industry as a serious choice. By sharing my experience and those of others, I hope to raise the profile of a career in construction for the next generation. After all, to date I have had an incredible international career, been more successful than the majority of my school peers, and looking forwards I still have a long way to go. With the majority of education statistics showing that girls are now outperforming boys, and women’s employment rates rising, perhaps women specifically could help solve the industry’s skills shortage crisis.

A large and varied field for young women to explore

Cecilia del Pozo Rios, Associate at Allies and Morrison, believes that construction is such a large and varied field for young women to explore and presents great opportunities to provide new perspectives to a historically male world. Cecilia was educated in Spain, where children are encouraged to discover their strengths in order to develop their speciality to choose a career. Yet here in the UK, girls in school are lead to believe that construction is for men, that it’s all about laying bricks and scaffolding. During my all-girls education, a career in construction was never even presented as an option, despite my interest in practical skills and engineering. I hope and believe that those attitudes are changing.

But really, for all young women out there, your gender is a huge advantage to you. The site can be daunting at times, but I can honestly say that I am treated with respect. As a female you do have to be thick-skinned, you will encounter laddish banter, interesting childish “artwork”, and colourful language. On the contrary, I also work in some of the most professional environments I have experienced globally, and alongside inspiring industry leaders in an ever-changing cityscape.

‘So many great roles’

British Land’s Karina Williams, Sustainability Manager, shares my view that young people don’t know enough about what careers are available to them. She believes “there are so many great roles for anyone in construction, female or male. There’s no reason for women not to want to go into construction.”

It’s been widely reported that women make up 11-14% of the construction industry’s total workforce. However, this doesn’t give any representation of what women’s roles actually are on construction projects.

4 Kingdom Street

4 Kingdom Street is a British Land development and a project for which Group SCS is supplying the smoke ventilation systems for Wates Construction, which is extremely proud that the project has a higher than average percentage of women working on site. This is evenly distributed through Wates’ staff, its supply chain and the wider consultant team.

Gavin Williams, Wates’ Project Director, said: “When Faye approached me to discuss the concept of a case study about women in construction, I immediately suggested that it was centred on the 4 Kingdom Street project. This gave us an opportunity to showcase the diverse roles that women hold at the 4 Kingdom Street project.” (See the infographic below – click the graphic to access a larger PDF version).

Positive experiences

Despite all the negative press surrounding the actual number of women in construction, I was pleasantly surprised to find that those operating in the industry, including myself, share similar positive experiences. We are all proud of our achievements, feel we can really contribute to the industry’s development from a different perspective and are fortunate to say we get huge job satisfaction from the variety of challenges presented to us. I urge any young person to research the variety of careers available in the construction industry, work hard, and be part of building our future.

At Group SCS, we actively involve ourselves in client-led initiatives in schools to help share our experiences and tell young people about the opportunities available to them. We believe we are ambassadors of the industry and it’s our responsibility to help change its perception, from how we communicate with our clients to the quality of the product we deliver. We have plans to roll out a workshop for younger school children before they start to make choices that will affect their career decisions at GCSE. We employ apprentices across all parts of our business and encourage cross-functional training to engage them in what we do and why we do it. By providing training across all parts of our business we aim to retain loyal and valuable employees capable of securing the future of our business. We are constantly trying to innovate and improve the way in which our services are traditionally supplied, and young minds can help us deliver it.

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