In the UK and Ireland, women make up around 10% of the construction and civil engineering workforce, with even fewer women represented on-site.
This figure is rising slowly, especially with more and more construction companies, like Lagan Construction Group for example, bringing more diversity to their recruitment processes.
Women are of particular benefit to the construction industry because they have great communication skills and are able to bring teams together and forge strong relationships within and without their company. These are so-called “soft skills” and they’ve been overlooked and underpaid somewhat in recent decades, but they’re being recognised more now. That said, women can face barriers to a successful career in construction, so here are some tips to help to overcome them.
Don’t be scared of your skills and knowledge
You should aim to make yourself stand out from the crowd. If your company is lacking in a particular area – maybe it’s a bit behind on sustainable building practices or new technologies – you should look to fill in this gap. Take extra classes, or bring into play what you learned at college, go to conferences or seek out forums. However you do it, let people know that, say, green building is your bag and become to go-to person for that.
Find your passion and fuel it
If you really believe in something, bring it to work with you – and that doesn’t mean your pet unicorn, by the way… What really drives you? Is it recycled aluminium? Or developing living roofs? Having a real interest makes you interesting and it also gives you something else to talk about at that conference when you get asked for the 15th time whether your hair ever gets in the way…
Don’t ask, don’t get
As in many other industries, women start off on lower salaries than their male counterparts and this gap doesn’t tend to improve over the years. Furthermore, within a year of starting a new career, more than half of male graduates have already asked for a pay rise, compared to less than a tenth of female graduates. Don’t be shy, open your mouth and close that gap!
Show some initiative
Are you finding that some things in your company are a bit outdated? An old messaging system, maybe, or old accounting software? It could be anything, really, but if you can point out its inefficiencies and suggest a new piece of kit or a new process and show the advantages, you’ll win people over and make everyone’s lives a bit easier.
Find a mentor or two
There will always be someone out there who has been right where you are now and so if you can connect with her, you’ll have someone to ask for advice and gain encouragement from. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a woman – it could be a sympathetic man who supports women in construction. Whoever it is, they should know what you’re going through and support you and your goals – and have some useful strategies for dealing with awkward situations.
You don’t have to become one of the men to fit into the construction industry. Women offer their own skills and abilities and you should be asking for these to be appreciated just as much as the men’s fortes are.