Part one – Why should women choose construction?
Following on from the “business argument for diversity in construction” blog that we wrote back in April 2012, we recently found this comment hidden in our approval archives.
Chrissi – I was searching for some answers about women in construction when I came across your blog. I’m so glad to see a blog about women in construction. I’ve been in the industry for 4 years and am only now reconsidering my choice. I never imagined it would be such a struggle. Now I’m trying to answer some questions that I’ve realised since facing adversity. Perhaps you could answer these with the research and knowledge you have already done. Why should women choose construction? Why shouldn’t women choose construction? Why are men hostile about women being in construction? If the industry is so hostile to the idea of women being in construction, why would / should women choose it? If men don’t even like the construction industry, why would women? What do women have to gain by going into the construction industry instead of another industry that is already accommodating to her special needs? What are the risks and what are the potential gains? Is it worth it in the end?”
Becky, the writer raises some important points so; I shall do my best to answer them.
There are 8 questions here which I shall look to answer over the month so that you are not swamped with too much information at once.
Why should women choose construction?
That’s a question that really is determined by a number of factors, first you need to consider the reasons why people choose any job; we thought of nine –
Then we need to consider how construction motivates these decisions –
Financial – the construction industry is often a well-paid industry, obviously at the moment in the midst of the recession that’s a difficult point to haggle; but that’s because we have a traditional boom and bust cycle. What’s important to understand is that roles dominated by women (known as the five Cs Catering, Caring, Cashiers, Cleaning and Clerical) are the least well paid and in a recession they suffer even worse. So from a financial perspective you are better off as a woman choosing a a non-gender-traditional career – so why not construction? (I’ll cover that in the next blog post)
Greater good – Women are often linked to what’s called greater good roles, such as nursing. This is a big nature / nurture debate and I’ll admit I’m not sold either way especially since most people look to achieve greater good later in their worklife, so I think it would be a mistake to tar a whole gender with this brush (and un-tar the other at the same time). I would argue that working in some construction roles such as environmental consultant could be seen as greater good but it would be the individual who decides if that’s the change they want to make in the world.
Leaving a mark – Find me a builder who hasn’t dragged a poor uninterested spouse / friend / stranger half a mile out of the way to look at a warehouse / office block / bus station to say “I built that!” and I’ll insist they show me their CSCS card as proof of their profession. The feeling of building something is remarkable and a biological attraction for humans; we seek to be remembered once we are gone and whether that’s through our children, our ideas or building a great, big, chuffing building is pretty much just gravy.
Passion – Sometimes people just really, really, really love building stuff
Progression – The construction industry is great at many things and one of them is progression; day release programmes and apprenticeships, whilst not what they were, are still options. It’s an industry where you can leave school with basic qualifications and end up a director. Personally it’s one of my favourite things about construction; the way that it transforms lives, and I credit it for transforming mine (though in a slightly roundabout way I will admit)
Parental Influence – It used to be that 60% of people in industry made their choice because someone close worked in the sector, but this number is estimated to have fallen.
Existing knowledge – The careers we often choose are those we know of or have heard about, though this is a barrier to most people without a family or friend in the sector. I once asked a room of 15 connexions officers (careers advisors) to name careers in the built environment; they could only name Brickie, Plumber and Architect – I kid you not.
So no one really knows about the wonderful career choices available in the sector, which is a pity as I am a firm believer that construction holds a career for just about everyone. I cannot think of a general discipline that can’t be catered for –
Maths Site engineer, structural engineers, civil engineer
Psychology Site manager (I stand by that)
Science Geotechnical engineer
History Restoration and heritage
English Contracts law
This lack of knowledge is something that is seen as a barrier not just to girls, but to boys as well.
Peers – Most people at 16 don’t want to be too different; they want to do what their friends do. So whilst this is usually a reason why women don’t pick a career in industry, I have seen examples of where it has worked the other way with groups of girls embarking on joinery courses together.
Chance – Sometimes we just need a job, and somehow we get one.
Personally I chose it as I simply loved building things, figuring out puzzles, working with teams and, of course, saying “I built that!”