Women in Construction? 29 Nov 2018
Women in Construction. A blog post by Melissa Fazackerley
Women in construction and in particular health and safety are making progress, huge progress, but why do we feel there is still such a long way to go?
Emmeline Pankhurst, a true leader of our time who contributed greatly to the equality of women as a suffragette leader, a cause which saw her imprisoned on several occasions and taking part in hunger strikes to secure release. A young woman from Manchester who changed the world because she stood up for what she believed in and was able to influence others. During the First World War, Pankhurst persuaded the nation’s women to help our country in ways which were never thought of before to help secure where we are today. Her husband supported the work Pankhurst did and helped her set up the Women’s Franchise League (WFL) which aimed to secure women’s rights to vote and later coined the slogan ‘deeds not words’ which still stands true today.
Organisations, particularly construction organisations, are male dominated, a tradition that has spanned decades with women only coming into the industry in recent years, but why aren’t more women in construction? Unfortunately some companies seem to think they have to put a women in a certain role because ‘it will look good’ by meeting criteria set by public pressure, rather than seeing someone who is good for the business and industry. I attended a forum recently at which I was the only woman in the room of 14 men and I am proud to say I was one of the more vocal people of the group…which is the reason this blog piece came about.
Our industry is so vast there is probably a role to suit anyone should their interests be met from health and safety to quantity surveying and brick laying, so why aren’t we getting more women in construction? Last year I was lucky enough to work with my local girl guiding leader to do safety talks with the young girls from Rainbows and Brownies…not one of them understood the concept that I am in construction and I go to building sites. My own children, who are primary school age have just grasped the concept that the high viz jacket and hard hat in the hallway belong to mummy. So I asked them a few questions and this is how it went:
Why do you think the building site safety gear belongs to daddy?
Why would you go to a building site mummy? You work at a desk.
What makes you think I can’t do both?
Will your boss let you do both?
Yes, I work for lovely people (#teamlongworth) and it is in fact my job to work at a desk AND on building sites. Would you like to see a building site mummy has worked on recently?
But what do you do on building sites? Do you boss people around?
Well no, my job is to help the company keep people that work there safe, so they are lucky enough to come home to their families like I can. There is a site not too far away, would you like to go? I can’t actually take you on site though.
Yeah!! How much can we see though? Can we see lots and will you tell us all about how it is built? Why you have to wear safety stuff?
So off we went to Wigan bus station (https://www.placenorthwest.co.uk/news/wigan-bus-station-opens-to-public/) looking through the fencing of the site boundary. I explained to the children what I do as well as how we get onto the roof and install the soffit and everything that is involved. They spotted a flyer to say the new bus station is opening and they asked if we can go and see the finished product so this weekend we are going to take a look.
The conversation went on a lot longer than I have detailed and I am still working on it now! I just ask for one thing from you…don’t close the world up to the younger generations. They can do anything they want to do provided they have the skills and ability whether that is sitting behind a desk, becoming a dentist, a plasterer, forklift driver or director. Promote and nurture exploration and recognise the joy in what they do. ‘Normal’ is such a strange word because we don’t quite know what it means (for me to use the word ‘normal’ I think of average, generic, standard) but we all know what ‘success’ means, to me it is happiness in what I do.
I love the construction industry and I love health and safety, so many opportunities are out there for the taking…you just have to reach out, make that leap of faith and be happy in what you do.
Melissa Fazackerley CMIOSH MIIRSM
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