Today we profile 12 women around the world succeeding in male-dominated professions – here’s why we need to share their positive stories

The stated purpose of International Women’s Day is to: “Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness about discrimination. Take action to drive gender parity.” Construction, given its track record on under-representing women in its workforce, can make a big contribution towards this aim.

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In the UK women make up just under 16% of the construction workforce – and only a fraction of those have site-based roles. This country is not alone; construction around the world is overwhelmingly still a male domain.

Which is why the stories from the 12 women we are profiling for this publication are so powerful. Their experiences are drawn from across five different continents and cover the full range of skills needed by the industry.

>> Special report: Women in construction

Some of our interviewees were encouraged into a construction-related career because they had family already working in the sector; others had a hunch it would suit them and took a leap of faith. What is common to all of them is that they faced some sort of barrier along the way during their careers, either because of wider societal pressures or because they were made to feel different in the workplace.

None of that has stopped them. In fact, it seems to have spurred them on to redouble their efforts and keep doing the work they enjoy most.

Reading about exactly how they have all managed to achieve their own professional ambitions is fascinating. Kim Kwung Shin in South Korea, for example, says it was curiosity that led her into becoming a crane operator in Seoul – she had the self-belief that she could learn the technical skills and went for it. Having proved to herself and others that she was more than capable, she has progressed to representing other workers through one of the country’s trade unions, becoming an activist for women workers’ rights.

Each of the 12 accounts is unique, but all reflect an awareness that women are not operating on a level playing field and all share a desire to do something to bring about wider change.

Talent, ambition and determination are all traits these women share and could largely be said to have got them where they are today. Even so, they also acknowledge the support they received from other people in their lives that enabled them to get to the powerful roles they now enjoy. Which means they have been able, in turn, to help other women succeed.

We do, of course, have a long way to go to achieve gender parity in construction, which ultimately will benefit men as well as women. These uplifting stories show progress is possible. As Kirsty Shrubsall at Sir Robert McAlpine says, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” I certainly intend to tell my primary-school-aged daughter about these women and their successes in construction so she knows just what is possible in the future.