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Breaking the glass ceiling in construction

8th March 2019

It’s a tale as old as time – the construction industry is seriously lacking in a female workforce. As of last year, there were 2.3m people working in the construction industry yet only 296,000 of these were women, meaning 87% of those working within the sector are men.

The construction industry needs to work hard at all levels to change perceptions of what a career within the sector looks like and encourage more women to consider taking one up. This is something we are working hard on here at Eurocell.

This International Women’s Day, we wanted to acknowledge and appreciate the women that have contributed massively to our industry. Without further delay…

The ‘First Lady’ of Engineering

Known as the woman of modern management, or more commonly, Lillian Gilbreth, Gilbreth worked with her husband to create a scientific approach to workplace efficiency and management that is still used today!

Not only that, but Lillian was a government consultant during the Great Depression and WWII. She invented shelving in refrigerator doors and the foot-pedal garbage can. Lillian taught at Bryn Mawr, Newark College of Engineering, Rutgers University, the University of Wisconsin and MIT. And she did all this whilst having 12 children!

Emily Roebling

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the greatest engineering feats of its time, but did you know that the chief engineer for its build was a woman? None other than Emily Roebling! Her husband was in charge of the bridge’s construction and when he fell sick, she took the reins. From stress analysis to day-to-day project management, Emily executed one of the earliest feminist victories and is known as one of the greatest engineers of all time.

Veronique Laury

Now, let’s bring it into the 21st Century. As one of only seven female CEOs of FTSE100 companies, Veronique became head of Kingfisher, the owner of B&Q in January 2015. Veronique began her career in construction at a French home improvements retailer, managing the lighting and tiling departments. She moved to Kingfisher in 2003 as product director and worked her way up to CEO.

A statement we could all use in our day-to-day life, Veronique said: “I have not done it differently from a man. I have just worked, been passionate about what I have been doing, been true to my convictions.”

It’s about time the industry took getting more women into construction seriously and there’s a raft of ways we can work from the top down to do this:

• Outreach to schools and colleges can be a great way of challenging stereotypes regarding working in construction. There’s a variety of careers available within the sector – we just need to make sure the next generation of workers are aware of them!

• Catering for women on-site might seem like an unnecessary step but you’d be surprised at the number of sites that do not have female toilets or only provide men’s workwear and PPE. How can we expect women to want to enter an industry that does not provide clothes that fit properly? Not only is this a H&S risk, but means women cannot do their job comfortably.

• Pay fairly. It’s as simple as that. With larger companies now having to report on their gender pay gap, financial inequality amongst the sexes has never been more transparent. Ensure your business is fair, equal and uncompromising in offering equal pay.

• Unarguably, there is an unconscious bias within construction that has led to women believing they cannot pursue a career within the industry. Whether it’s the ‘white van man’ image or stereotyped ‘lairy’ builders on-site, we can all take an extra step to make construction more hospitable towards women.

The construction industry is at crisis point when it comes to the skills shortage, something that could be remedied by an increase of women on-site. If we all work together, we can make the industry a more welcoming place for women, creating a more holistic workplace for everyone involved.

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