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In 2019 we are still finding that the gender gap is still an issue in many areas of the world. Be it in sport, Hollywood or any other day to day industry.  

So, for International Women’s Day 2019 we asked the question; do women have a place in our industry? You better believe they do!  

Thankfully, there are some positive signs that this is beginning to be recognised. Whilst there is certainly much more to be done the trend is showing positive improvements. In January 2018 Randstad performed a survey on more than 5,400 professionals within construction, property, engineering and rail professionals to find out what is really happening in their respective industries.  

There is an increase in the percentage of women being present on construction boards, it now sits at one in every five (20%). This is a significant increase from 2010 where it sat at just 12.5%. Whilst this is an improvement there is still a long way to go. We are still playing catch up with other industries. For example, FTSE 100 companies are sitting at one in four (28%)  

We wanted to get a truthful insight in to how women feel working within construction. To know more about where we stand as a business and an industry we sat down with one of our Project Managers, Chloe Aillud.

So, what does Chloe’s job involve here at Gaysha?  

Day to Day my job role varies a lot. I usually start my week by reviewing site progress from the week before and updating programs, requests for information, meeting minutes etc. We will usually conduct team meetings to identify any gaps that need filling, anything that needs picking up as a team. I will then spend one full day on the relevant sites, meeting with the consultants, site managers, architects and sub-contractors on site and present weekly reports to the client as needed.”

“I will then break my time up for the rest of the week depending on what the needs are of the projects based around the point in the program we are at, reviewing finance on projects, working on procurement packages and any bespoke requirements for projects, reviewing drawings and looking at detailed elements that may require any special attention.”

“If I am working on a design and build contract, a lot of my time will be spent working on layouts, designs and finishing schedules prior to projects beginning on site, then when the works are in progress I will review on a weekly basis with the contractors and client any need for adjustments or requests for variations. 

Brief background to your construction career?  

“So, my original background is heavily based around creative design, specialising in interior design as my career developed in the earlier days. When I first entered the creative industry, I did not envision that I would find myself working for a construction company as a project manager, not your usual career path! But how I came to find myself here was completely by accident. I was working for a large corporate retail chain as an interior designer, planning and developing new store concepts around the UK and occasionally abroad, my working year would be split between explorative works, office based design, then finally bringing the designs to life on a building site along with all the general contractors we would employ, this was where I found my love for construction. It was when I finally got to the building site and the designs would come to life that I discovered the most rewarding part of my job was the construction, I loved to build things! I almost instantly recognised the value of designers and contractors working together as a team to create achievable and practical realities but still as inspiring as we aimed to achieve.”

When you came in to construction did you find there was obstacles because of the gender gap?   

“There was no denying that it existed in construction, and as a female it is not for the faint hearted! It’s a tough question as I think it can be heavily dependent on personality, because I have felt like I have been on an uphill battle on many occasions due to being younger and female. At the end of the day, men and women operate differently, we think differently, we envision differently, and we have different physical capabilities. But being a female in the construction industry, wading my way through the sea of site testosterone, you soon discover the business is crying out for some feminine outlook and structure!If you are lucky enough to find a company that recognises this and is more than happy to embrace it, and let us women introduce the diversity we can bring to the business, it becomes plain sailing after you accept the slightly odd manner in which men communicate on building sites and accept you will rock their boat once you initially climb aboard. FYI, they do get over it and, in the end, begin to embrace the balance you bring.  ”

What did you find was the best method to deal with this gap?  

Well, when dealing with it, you must remember you are no less than a man! As I said before, we need to remember that women are adding something different to the industry, this is a great coping skill if you feel you are struggling with your self-belief, to remind yourself of this. As I said previously, I think it does depend on personality whether you bed in well or may struggle a little more than others. I read a great book that wasn’t construction based but about women in business, called Lean In: Women, work and the will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg. This gave me great belief that we are indeed equal, and we deserve to be there as much as men. 

The times we live in at the moment, women are still on a daily basis fighting for equality and the construction industry is unfortunately years behind a lot of other business areas, so I always remind myself that I am on that front line fighting the battle for women to be treated as equals in construction and hopefully that will encourage others, that makes the uphill battle worth it! There are so many opportunities within the construction industry and it’s an exciting place to be, so women shouldn’t miss out on that! 

Where do you see improvements in the industry?  

I can only speak from a personal point of view at my current position, but I genuinely feel I have now been accepted within my job role. I lean in at meetings and I don’t feel as though I need to hold back due to the age or gender gap, even this small element is a great step forward. I have been encouraged within my current position to push forward and put my ideas for the business on the table, my alterative point of view is being recognised and listened to. This is a big step forward that women are being respected as equals and knowledgeable in construction. 

Where do you feel the industry needs to improve still?  

We need more encouragement at education level for not only women but everyone to enter the industry. It feels as though it is not seen as a desirable career path anymore within the education system, and the next generation are not aware of the vast variety and opportunity available in construction. Education is power, we need to pass on what we know now to the next generation, and for them to educate us with what they can add to the industry.  

Whilst we mentioned some improvements to the status quo at the beginning there is still so much we can do and will do to improve this out-dated gap. Out of 1,200 people that have experienced discrimination (33%), 60% were women. A staggering 43% of organisations do not monitor gender pay gaps within their organisations. Three quarters (73%) of women said they felt they had been passed over for projects due to their gender and not their skillset.  

As a business we know we have more to do to help the overall picture. We do currently believe in gender fair pay. In our project team’s women have a strong part to play. Currently our office team is made up of 35% women, but this still needs to be higher. It is on site where we really want / need to improve this stat, which currently sits at 0%.  

It is all well and good us promoting women in construction on International Women’s Day and highlighting where we currently sit, but what are we going to do about it in 2019 and further? We know as a company, and industry and as a world this is going to take time to eradicate this, but we will never stop fighting the battle. So, this year we are planning to do the following; we plan to work with the fantastic women in construction organisations which already exist to get more women in to our work force, especially on site. We will aim to collate more feedback from our female heroes to continue to improve the work place. We will look to get involved in more at education level to promote the fantastic industry we work in. We will aim to get more female work experience in to our work environment.  

But that is all in the future, today and every day is about celebrating not only the already amazing women we have within our industry but industries around the world. Happy International Women’s day to all!  

Article by Stuart Moore at Gaysha Ltd, a London-based fit out & refurbishment contractor operating across the residential, commercial and industrial sectors.

Gaysha Ltd, 5th Floor, 8-10 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W 0DH

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