Women in construction

Why are there so few women in the construction industry?

According to the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), women make up only around 13% of construction sector workers which, in today’s age of supposed equality, is a shockingly low figure.

Jobs roles for women in this field seem to be limited to areas such as Human Resources, finance and administration… the stereotypical pen pusher and secretary. A female brick layer is a rare sight, and the same goes for other “heavy duty” areas of the construction industry such as crane operating and welding.

Given that we recently celebrated 100 years of the Suffragette Movement, one can only wonder what those brave women who once fought for the right to vote might think of today’s world where large industries remain almost entirely male-dominated.

Then and now

Even now we still see adverts defining women as trophies, with sexual innuendo used to sell everything from jewellery to power tools. Despite positive changes in society, in particular within the armed forces and public services, certain environments remain fiercely male-dominated. I’m sure the reasons for this are multi-faceted… a bit of latent chauvinism, but similarly young women themselves look from the outside world and see an environment that is “not for them”. Anecdotal evidence suggests to me that, at school leaver level, girls are not encouraged to consider these areas for a career, or given advice on how to enter these industries.

But in this time of equality, shouldn’t women be encouraged to look beyond the traditional “norm”, and recognise that great opportunities await within traditionally male-dominated environments? After all, schools are now encouraging more girls to take the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects further into their education in the hope they will consider careers options based around them.

The construction industry is a challenging, dynamic and cutting-edge industry. Renewable energy is growing rapidly within both commercial and private construction projects, and sustainable construction also follows an environmentally-friendly pattern, looking at ways to build without depleting resources.

So how can women get into the construction industry?

Further education students can consider courses such as Higher National Diplomas (HND), Higher National Certificate (HNC) and the NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) are all worth looking at. An apprenticeship is the ultimate ‘on the job’ training route into a career and can last two or three years. At the end of it, the apprentice has several recognised qualifications including an NVQ.


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