Features - Business

Combating barriers for women in construction

In my last column I wrote, hopefully persuasively, that the demolition industry has a great opportunity to help tackle the skills gap by unlocking the potential of a female workforce.

How can we make this happen? I believe that we need to change our culture and the perception of it in order to get two types of women, broadly speaking, into our industry.

he demolition industry has a great opportunity to help tackle the skills gap by unlocking the potential of a female workforce.

Patricia Sloneczny

Firstly, young women. We must remove barriers which prevent girls from exploring careers in our demolition (and of course this applies largely to the construction industry in general).

Many of these barriers are psychological ones. To combat these, early engagement with young women could include industry-based initiatives including demolition ambassadors going into schools, colleges and universities to promote careers in the industry.

My company has run successful work experience engagements with local schools, held day release and work placements for students at local colleges and we are building relationships with universities to encourage graduates to consider careers with us.

We have had girls and young women show genuine interest in our industry and I hope that before too long we will be able to demonstrate a really tangible impact of our efforts to introduce demolition to a female audience.

Alongside two of my co-directors at AR Demolition, I am currently studying for a Masters in Demolition Management from the University of Wolverhampton.

As part of the course I have written a dissertation on the topic of the changing role of women in my industry.

I found it helpful to categorise the roles in demolition and they fall into three brackets: senior management; operations; support.

Looking down the roles within each category, I see no reason why women can not occupy every one of those jobs. In senior management we are looking at MDs and directors in commercial, finance, HS&E and operations – all of which are within the grasp of qualified and talented women.

It’s perfectly feasible to expect women to be managers in operations, on projects and on sites and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t excel in supervisory or operative roles as well.

Meanwhile in the realm of support, in estimating and tendering, in logistics, in plant and equipment management, in HR and training, in finance, admin, IT or marketing and social media, again these are all roles which women can do perfectly as well as men.

It may take time and I realise that it is unlikely that women will walk straight into positions, especially senior roles at the top of the ladder, without some prior knowledge of the industry, particularly if they are competing against men who hold the experience they lack.

However I hope that I am one example of how women can succeed in this industry – I have been with AR Demolition almost since it was founded in 2008 and during that time I have been instrumental in developing the company into the cutting-edge, forward looking business that it is today.

Of course change will not happen overnight. So we need to get girls in to junior roles in the industry in order that they can learn the trade and rise through the ranks to occupy senior positions.

In the meantime, perhaps this is where our industry can benefit from the second type of woman who I believe can fill available positions in the industry: professionally qualified women who are returning to work after raising families.

These women may already have had successful careers and are looking to apply the experience already gathered to a new role. Many of the necessary knowledge bases – for example financial and commercial nous, management experience, communication and collaboration – are universal across business sectors.

When combined with some training and induction, these powerful female brains can bring vital talent to an industry which is crying out for additional business acumen and leadership potential.

Indeed, an influx of fresh thinking may even introduce skills which are perhaps lacking in the demolition industry, and the construction industry in general.

Dare I say that traditionally feminine traits such as flexibility, diversity, multitasking and team play might help bring a more rounded, modern ethos to a sector which can be slow to change?

None of this is intended as a criticism of demolition or the wider construction industry in general. I love the work I do and am passionate about helping our sector succeed. However, we need more talent and I believe that the female workforce can provide a rich seam of ability which is as yet largely untapped.

Blog provided by Patricia Sloneczny, Development Director at AR Demolition.
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