So I won’t pretend I knew much about Woman’s hour prior to receiving a phone call about it but did I want to appear on BBC radio with a group of legendary Women in construction…………….. Hell yeah!
When explaining to my Dad that I had been invited to the show he was really happy as when my Nana was alive she always listened to it, I guess this gave me even more of a boost to take part.
It was an bank holiday special dedicated to women in construction and I was privileged to take part with some fabulous women
Roma Agrawal MBE– Author of Built and a structural engineer who worked on the Shard.
Cristina Lanz-Azcarate – Chair, London South East NAWIC (National Association of Women in Construction). Also an architect!
Hattie Hasan – Plumber and founder of Stopcocks Women Plumbers.
Sarah Fenton – Partnerships Director Midlands and North, CITB
Lynsey Davies – Plasterer from Wales who is now training to be a quantity surveyor
We were all interviewed by Tina Daheley who was fabulous and genuinely really engaged.
It was a brilliant thing to take part in and there was such a positive vibe from everyone – super inspirational! I don’t believe I have been in such a room discussing matters of women working in construction where the main vibe was just positivity , we all spoke about our journeys into the industry, what we would tell people wanting the join the industry and some genuine giggles about things we have overcome.
Recently I attended the Strategic Transport Apprenticeship Taskforce Annual report – Three years of progress event.
This was my third year on the board, I joined the board as a Crossrail apprentice when I worked at Tottenham Court Road and I have been a board member since. Our main objective is to get more apprentices into transport.
The event was hosted by the brilliant Mike Brown who sits also as the chair of STAT.
I was fortunate enough to chair a panel of 4 brilliant apprentices
Who spoke about their experience of apprenticeships and what changes we can make for all, it was very thought provoking for all in the room.
We were followed by the brilliant Sir Kenneth Olisa OBE who as well as many other things is the Lord – Lieutenant if Greater London, he shared some brilliant thoughts on apprenticeships and social justice.
A great event to celebrate the panels third year of progress towards more apprenticeships in transport.
So only 0.7% of women working in construction work in a trades capacity and the majority of these women are working in painting and decorating – This number hasn’t changed in 30 years but why is this?
I often puzzle over this as I do many school talks etc and the willing from young people is always there to learn a new skill, then I look at the industry and realise that a lack of career advice, a misconception about working on site and a certain lack of flexibility would probably stop ladies somewhere along the line.
All this was fine and within my understanding however this week I read probably the most shocking but honest thread to do with the mistreatment of ladies working on the tools and it really threw me back.
The things mentioned were not issues I had faced working for a large contractor on well known big projects. I speak a lot about my own experiences on site and as an apprentice but in reality compared to the things I have read, my own experiences are more down to lack of thought and bad planning than any real malice.
The thread itself started with a lady who had spent over 30 years in the industry, started as an electrical apprentice and stated that although she had worked with some great people she had also been sexually assaulted, suffered sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination. She felt let down by hr and currently has not worked for 6 years after suffering a break down due to being bullied for 5 years by her manager!
So I read this absolutely horrified thinking well this is truly terrible but maybe this was a long time ago and things must be much better now.
Following this initial post a lot of other women joined in and I am going to quote some things I read.
“When I had my baby, I sadly had to take a demotion to allow for my child care because the business wouldn’t entertain it in a role I worked really hard to get.”
“I have only been in the industry 5 years and had to report sexual assault, which I took to the police – I no longer work there”
“Once I had an employer ignore my report of a customers inappropriate touching, I am much happier self employed”
“I am a student and it starts in the classroom, I am one of two women on the course and we were instantly segregated, I was stuck with an unpleasant 18 year old who was more into flirting than learning. After months of being ignored and left out of tasks, I lost it and was told I should have spoken up”
“6 Years ago I was sexually harassed, bullied and discriminated so badly it tipped me over the edge, was sent away which made me feel suicidal and then made redundant”
“I’m very upset as we speak, did work experience today and one of my college peers was making me uncomfortable but I can’t feel like I can do anything because he is special needs so doesn’t understand……………….I really don’t know if I should quit while im ahead”
So why has the 0.7% of women working in trades number not changed in 30 years?
Because we are not looking after our women, we are not supporting them throughout their learning or working environments.
We are hemorrhaging great people because we can’t change the culture in which we work, it isn’t that women don’t want to work in trades but allowing behaviors like the ones above to start even at a college level we are setting them up for failure within a broken system.
There are many great positive experiences out there too, but even one incident of any of the above is too many failures!
Yesterday I was quoted in the CN briefing that was emailed out and I wanted to just expand on the briefing bellow.
I was asked to comment on what could be done to improve diversity in the construction sector and if off site can be used to attract more women to the industry ?
I was also told that a recent Scottish Parliament committee meeting the panel discussed that off site might attract more to the industry compared to on site work.They went on to say that on site conditions-such as travelling far from home and uncertainty relating to jobs and hours may make the factory conditions of off-site a more attractive prospect for women.
Huge question right and just like everyone else I don’t really have the magic answer for this, I believe there are a number of issues that need addressing in order to attract women to the industry and do I think off site can be used to attract more women….. probably but there shouldn’t be any reason we can’t change the way the industry is currently t in order to attract more women.
If I look at this in a fairly simple way I think the first problem we have is visibility and women being aware of the opportunities that are available to them in a on site capacity, the ability to learn a completely new trade etc via an apprenticeship or course. Much the same as previously to me being offered my apprenticeship I really didn’t believe I could ever do something like crane operating.
The next problem we have is the lack of flexibility in an onsite capacity, I go a lot of office meetings where everyone pats themselves on the back because Jean, David and John get to either come in later or leave earlier to accommodate their children and lives at home. Unfortunately none of this translates to the people on site they can’t come in later because the morning briefing will not be moved, they can’t leave earlier because they are not doing their bit for site, being a team player and they will leave everyone one person down or leaving plant without an operator.
The industry is in generally massively less accommodating for people in on site roles, add in the mix of agency workers and the ability to change staff easily and the fact that if you won’t work on a weekend or stay the extra hours if needed – you are viewed as being a bit awkward, it makes it very hard for people to say no.
It’s a vicious circle the people on site won’t stand up because they don’t want to rock the boat and risk losing their jobs, they don’t wan’t to be awkward and they are grateful for the job but they realise they are not irreplaceable.
There is no reason why we can’t make the site more accommodating for everyone, yes it will take a lot more work and it will be hard to put things in place but is the industry willing to make this happen just yet ?
I agree we can probably do more to attract women in an off site capacity but in all honesty why can’t we make the changes on site to make everyones lives better, we all go on about mental health and how important it is but we have plenty of people working away from home for massive hours and the industry gives very little to them in return. Ok the pay is good but there is a lot to be said for working in a stable and secure enviroment where everyones life balance matters.
If we improve on site conditions, flexibility and visability I think the diversity numbers will increase themselves.
Women in construction numbers – Close up!
As an aside if we look into the numbers as given to me by Kath Moore of Women into Construction
Women in the industry overall is 12-13%
About 10-11% are engineers
Leaving 2% in the manual area!
When we look deeper into this manual area most are working in unskilled areas including cleaning. The true figure of those who are trades women inc plant operators is around 0.7%
The majority of that 0.7% work in painting and decorating
THE NUMBER OF WOMEN IN TRADES HAS NOT IMPROVED IN 30 YEARS!!!!!!!!
In short I have no magic to make this better but I think with a few small changes we could make the on site part of the industry a lot more on par with other industries in the UK in terms of attraction for women. It is a sad thought that women pick other industries over ours just down to sheer flexibility that we currently can’t offer, imagine how much talent is slipping through our fingers.
Thank you Caroline Wadham from Construction News for letting me get involved.
I don’t care if you are sitting solo watching Netflix, spending it with friends, spending it working, spending it with love ones or just think its a huge con…….. have a great day.
I started working on a mini me awhile back and honestly I haven’t got too far, she still has a stupid pink hat which needs to be white and she really needs some orange PPE ohhhh and shes missing a crane.