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.
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!