International Women’s Day is a global event to commemorate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women worldwide
Managing Director, Cadventure Ltd
On International Women’s Day is seems appropriate to reflect on my career as a woman in the AEC industry.
I was lucky growing up – both of my parents instilled in me a belief that I should not be limited in my ambition or success – whether I chose to be a teacher, a lawyer or even an astronaut, I should seize all opportunities with both hands and never feel that I ‘didn’t belong’ on the basis of my sex.
My own experiences as a woman in business is not unique and I have experienced one extreme to another when it comes to the balance of the sexes. My first job out of university was in marketing and advertising, which, in general, tends to have a relatively high female quota in the workforce. I then moved into the AEC sector and found myself in a diametrically opposite environment, where women made up a very small part of the workforce.
Whilst much has been spoken of to address this, the lack of balance for women is also a missed opportunity for the industry, depriving us all of a huge pool of talent.
For my part, I have championed women in construction – both as a judge for the European Women in Construction and Engineering (WICE) awards and as a Women in BIM Mentor. But there is so much more that needs to be done by all of us as employer, role models and decisionmakers in construction.
My experience of these two great initiatives have made two things very clear to me. Firstly, the calibre of talent among women in the industry is phenomenal. And secondly, that we need to do more to encourage more women and young people to enter the industry, thereby diversifying the workforce further.
Celebrating women in construction and Encouraging young women to work in AEC
One of the biggest issues we have in addressing the balance of women in construction – and indeed encouraging young people into the industry in general – is that there is a huge misconception about what careers in construction look like. There is an assumption that they are largely male-dominated roles that either involve a lot of manual labour or a lot of desk time.
Class of Your Own (COYO) have developed the DEC programme which is a design, engineering and construction qualification that offers awareness and education for young people about our industry from 11 years of age.
With the DEC training programmes in schools from Class of Your Own, WIB mentorships and female role models coming to the fore more regularly, we as an industry are doing brilliant work to break down these barriers and showcase the wide range of opportunities the industry has to offer.
Cadventure is proud to partner COYO, helping to educate teachers in technology and software skills, as well as making the subject matter interesting and relevant for young people, and by demonstrating to students that it’s not just ‘a job for boys’.
Advice for women in construction
I contacted some of the incredible women I have had the pleasure of working with over the years and asked them what advice they would wish to give women joining the industry today.
Katya Veleva, Founding Director of Blush Cloud:
“My advice is – check with yourself. Always make sure you are nourished and nurtured, first and foremost. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need and draw solid boundaries.”
Alicia Llorens, Sales Campaign Manager, Virtuosity:
“If I could give my younger self a piece of advice, I’d say: dream big and work hard. You are not alone, although many times it will feel that way. Find a female mentor. Proactively seek feedback. Learn how to ask for help.”
Vicki Reynolds, Chief Technology Officer for i3PT and CertCentral, and a WIB Mentor and UK BIM Alliance Volunteer:
“My advice to women in construction is to identify your positive personal qualities and celebrate them. Absorb and acknowledge positive feedback that you get no matter how small it may seem. There will always be difficult people to work with and tasks that are hard to complete – you can’t control that. But you can control how you respond.”
Vicky Ernst, Chief of Strategic Projects at Arcadis Gen:
“Take responsibility for yourself and try not to blame the environment around you. Embrace the opportunity to be curious in everything you do – and remember that there’s no such thing as failure, just feedback.”
And my advice – wear bright colours in a sea of grey suits and jumpers and make an active contribution to join or lead the conversation.
The work women have done in construction so far has elevated all of us into a position that can pave the way for those that follow – and effect real change for gender equality in the industry. We are already seeing a huge change, and I am so excited to be involved in inspiring the next generation of women in technology and making every day ‘International Equality Day’!