Project1_Layout 1 07/05/2013 WOMEN IN CONSTRUCTION
Construction: a boys-only club?
The construction industry is often viewed as a “boys’ club”, but below are three women who are forging a successful career right at the top of
the construction industry. RCI’s Holly Miles sat down with these women at the Women in Construction Summit to find out about their experience
of working in a male-dominated industry and what needs to be done to attract more women into the sector
Julia Evans, BSRIA CEO
How did you get into the industry?
I have no degrees in construction or engineering.
I started life in the health service, then criminal
justice and then the rail industry in human
resources. I then went to work for the National
Federation of Builders and I was there eight years
before moving over to BSRIA.
Do you feel that women who come into the
industry need to have a thick skin?
I think they need to be well prepared. People tend
to think that if they are brilliant at something, then
someone will recognise them without them having
to say anything, but the world just doesn’t work like
that. Succeeding in the construction industry isn’t
about garnering male attributes, it’s about being
more confident and stepping forward to do things
and not expect anyone to hand you something on
Are there many women at your level in the
No there is not. There are few senior women
in construction and engineering. Until more
women come into the industry, it will be difficult
for women like me to appoint women into the
company to become directors.
Why do you think women are put off by
entering the construction industry?
Construction needs to address its profile and
people’s perception of what construction and
engineering is all about. Employers need talented
people and women are half the workforce. Active
endorsement of diversity and equality practice is
something all employers should be doing. It’s a
Are women just naturally inclined to opt for
what have been dubbed “female professions?”
Society is so orientated to male and female. Gender
definition is set so early in life and teachers in
preschool speak to girls and boys differently
– perhaps without even realising it. Gender
stereotypes are there from the earliest part of a
child’s life. It’s instilled culturally. Unless your
parents are involved in construction or engineering,
you might not be inclined to take the same path.
034 MAY 2018 RCIMAG.COM
Simone de Gale, architect
How did you get into architecture?
I was always going to be an architect and I knew
this since I was 12. My granddad was an architect
in Jamaica in the Caribbean, and my dad and
his brothers have all worked in construction in
London, so I grew up on building sites.
Is architecture a male-dominated industry?
At the moment, it is balanced on 26% women
and 74% men, so it’s actually better than the
construction industry as a whole, construction
is 87% versus 13% women. There is definitely
underrepresentation from women in architecture
and we would like to see more women.
How has your experience as a woman in
I have never had any negative experiences because
I have always been very confident, and I’ve had
the knowledge and confidence to say I am good at
my work and I have been rewarded for that.
What are women’s view of architecture? Do
they see it as a man’s industry?
I think it is viewed in a negative light. I have
Manon Bradley, world champion
What is the gender balance in your own
organisation? Are there many women at the
top of the organisation with you?
We are a small organisation – only six people –
five of whom are women. The two most senior
posts are both women and we have six female
board members out of a total of 13.
Why do you think women are currently
under-represented in construction – what puts
There are many, many reasons: the
discouragement of girls to study maths and
science at school and university, our failure to find
entry streams into construction that don’t involve
maths and sciences at school, the image of the
industry, which is still very much about mud and
big machines. Another reason is occupational
gender ghettos – women like to work with women
and men like to work with men, which is why
health and education are predominantly female
and construction is 70% plus male. And of course,
the sort of behaviour that I reference above where
there is a “lad culture” that excludes and belittles
women – then throw on top of that some large
gender pay gaps.
I see that you have responsibility for the gender
balance initiative – why is this important to
you and what does it entail?
The purpose of the Major Projects Association
read that women are discouraged to forge a
career in architecture and it saddens me because
I have had amazing experiences. We have to put
more positive messages out there so people can
see how successful women can be so it becomes
the norm. We have to work harder to bring that
positive voice forward.
is to improve the initiation and delivery of major
projects. I believe that one way of achieving
that is by improving the gender balance of those
people involved in project initiation and delivery.
If we are only attracting half of the population to
deliver our projects, by definition, we are missing
out on a lot of talent.
What is your opinion of the Construction
Week promotional girl debate? Do you think
it is detrimental to the view of women within
There is never any justification for using people as
objects – whether they are male or female. If their
only purpose is to attract attention, it promotes the
male gaze over women. The idea of “promotional
girls” is that women are valued more for their
looks than anything else and that the only
opinions within construction that matter are male.