In the same issue that we have the CIOB’s first woman president on the cover, we also highlight the difficulties many women face in advancing beyond the lower slopes of construction management

CIOB ambassador Chrissi McCarthy describes how women entrants often start their careers strongly, but then face the kind of covert discrimination that assigns them to lower-value projects, managers unwilling to back their careers, or ‘softer’ roles.

The resulting imbalance is clear to see. While many construction firms have a strong record in recruiting women school leavers and graduates, there are generally far fewer 30-somethings in evidence in the corporate newsletters and brochures in CM’s post bag, while the 40-somethings seem unable to break into senior management, never mind the boardroom. In last year’s Construction Manager of the Year Awards there was just one woman medallist compared to 19 men – and no women featured on the Highly Commended list.

These days, no one can argue that this is because women can’t hack a career in construction, or aren’t that committed, or decide to give it all up to start families. If they aren’t committed, why are they filling the university courses and graduate trainee places? If they do leave to have children, why isn’t returning an attractive option?

Li Shirong has had a construction career to be proud of – in academia, as a client and project manager, and as an ambassador for the fast-growing city of Chongqing. In her year as CIOB president, she plans to make international communication a key theme. But Li might also want to start a dialogue with the women she will meet – and find out why so few of them are looking forward to the varied and exciting construction career she herself has enjoyed.

Elaine Knutt, editor