What does a woman look for in a career? Security, a good working environment, prospects for progression.
Isn’t that pretty much the same as men, then? Despite some uncertain market conditions, the construction industry is still thriving and providing a career and a decent living for thousands of people. So surely the job of enticing both sexes into the industry shouldn’t exactly be rocket science? Well, apparently most of the industry bodies believe so.
I have spent almost 23 years in the construction industry, progressing steadily from a junior position as a civil engineer to director status, and have served a two-year spell on Knowles’ management board. However, stories like my own are probably one of the best kept secrets about the industry.
Most construction contractors and businesses have successfully made a conscious effort to rid themselves of archaic attitudes to women. They are keen to apply equal opportunities policies at every chance and present the industry as progressive and modern. The industry bodies, however, seem to be 20 years behind everyone else. They should be focusing on promoting the positive benefits of a career in the industry to both men and women, not setting up titillating photoshoots or cheap stunts such as banning wolf whistling on site or holding women-only award ceremonies.
To be considered a real career option for women, equal to any other, we need to use women who have built a successful career in construction to explain why it works for them. Other historically male-dominated industries such as finance and law have largely managed to shake off their negative image – how long will it be before the construction industry moves forward, too?
Helen Bentley, director, Knowles (a Hill International Company)