As a female Architect, I am all too aware of how few women there are working in construction. So often I am the only woman round the table or on the building site. Research shows that currently only 7% of full-time construction industry workers are women, and many of those will be in managerial or administrative roles.
The Office for National Statistics says that the number of women working as roofers, bricklayers or glaziers is so low it is immeasurable. Clearly there is much that needs to be done to improve this statistic and, with the current skills gap in construction, if we can encourage more women into the industry we can also solve the problem the industry is going to have in coming years. Experian forecasts that construction output is set to increase by 4.3% in 2017, higher than the average growth of the UK economy. That means we will need some one million additional workers by 2020 to cope with demand.
There is no silver bullet solution. But there are some simple steps we should be taking. Businesses and organisation within the construction industry need to be more vocal about highlighting the work of their existing female employees. That way other women – both inside and outside of that business – can see roles they can aspire to. This can be via blog posts or articles on their own website, or encouraging female members of staff to take up other roles within construction that will highlight their abilities. My employer, Stride Treglown, has done this for me by supporting me in my new role as Chairman of the South West branch of Women in Property.
The next generation also needs to better understand the huge variety of professions on offer within construction. It isn’t simply about being an Architect, or a bricklayer. There are a wealth of opportunities on offer, from mechanical, services or civil engineering through to specialist facade designers or building energy assessors. They can be site-based roles – both practical and managerial, or office-based.
Women in Property attend numerous careers fairs during the school year where our members talk to young people about what their jobs actually entail, and what skills you need to follow different career paths in construction. We find it fascinating talking to young women about their desired career path and it is quite shocking how many of them do not realise what working in construction entails.
Redrow Homes recently published a study that identified nearly half of schoolchildren were not aware of the variety of roles on offer in construction so somehow we need to work together to get this message across. Media coverage, careers fairs and offering of work experience placements are all factors which we hope will contribute to encouraging more young people, and more women, into construction. At Stride Treglown, we regularly host work experience students from GCSE, A-Level and degree levels – some of whom go on to follow a career in Architecture. Others realise they want to focus more on a different area of construction. Either way, it is clear that getting them into the working environment and highlighting to them what the construction industry is all about helps to clarify in their minds how they want their future career path to be mapped out.
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