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Steel toe cap workwear boots are the new Jimmy Choos – Fiona Tatton, Womanthology Editor

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Fiona Tatton - Womanthology Founder and Editor
Fiona Tatton

Hello and welcome to issue 40. In this issue we’re showcasing women who are involved in architecture and construction. We’ve got female architects, surveyors, crane operators, plumbers, leaders of professional institutes and even a photographer who is challenging career related stereotypes with each click of her camera shutter. We even have one of the plucky five organisations who are already reporting on the gender pay gap.

“Unmeasurable”

In other statistical related news, figures from the Office of National Statistics report that women make up only 11% of the construction workforce and just 1% of workers on site. They also state that the number of women working as roofers, bricklayers and glaziers is so low it is quote, “unmeasurable”. I would have to say that I found this to be the case when I tried to track down a female roofer. Good luck with that one. Needle. Haystack.

There are a growing number of plucky women who are challenging the stereotypes, but it’s not without challenges. Male dominated culture in construction is starting to change, but v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y.

Hard hats off to them

I had the great pleasure of speaking to the fantastic crane operator, Casey Elsby earlier today. I don’t know what it is about female crane operators, of which I believe there are about five (for the whole of the UK!), but they are just the most go-ahead, nothing’s going to get in my way kind of women. Vicky Harvey, my last high rise construction interviewee was the same. Hard hats off to them. Steel toe cap workwear boots are the new Jimmy Choos.

Part of the reason Chicks with Bricks was set up by Holly Porter, Director of Surface to Air Architects, in 2005 was to create a mechanism for women in the industry to connect with others and gain strength from a strong network of peers. And let’s face it, we need all the friends we can get when it comes to the world of work.

“I’m not being funny, but…”

It’s interesting that when you start to talk diversity and inclusion with middle aged men and upwards in age (and oddly, with the occasional woman too) in any profession, reactions are polarised. There’s either immediate engagement and buy in, or there’s eye rolling and protestations that begin with, “I’m not being funny, but…” as if that gives them license to be as obstructive and awkward as they like with whatever they say next.

The truth is that all smart businesses can understand the value of a gender balanced workforce. Amanda Clack, President Elect of RICS asks, “What leader in business can afford to ignore talent?” So, leaders of the construction sector, take off your ear protectors and your protective goggles and get with the programme. Talent is all around you. Ignore it at your peril, because your competitors won’t.

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