There are now over 30 million people in employment in the UK with more women with jobs than at any time since the Office for National Statistics began keeping records. Female employment now accounts for 67.2% of the UK workforce. Changing attitudes to working mothers, better childcare opportunities, career women and even crippling mortgages have all been suggested as contributing to this situation. Not forgetting of course the change in retirement age for women from 60 to 65 and beyond as the ageing population remains fit, willing and able to carry on working longer.
Women in Construction
So where, in fact, are the Nation’s women working… not it would seem in Construction. Statistics show that just 11% are employed in the industry with a mere 1% actually on-site with the remainder employed as architects, lawyers, engineers, quantity surveyors, project managers and associated roles. Women working as roofers, bricklayers and glaziers are so rare the numbers can’t be measured. UCATT, the UK’s only trade union specialising in construction has found that women face considerable challenges, including being paid less than their male counterparts to name but one. The National Apprenticeship Service which shows a considerable rise in the number of women participating, reports that only 2% of starts in construction were female. Even then the vast majority leave within 5 years. Despite many years of positive campaigning if you take yourself to any college that includes Construction in its curriculum, the numbers are borne out with female students in very short supply in areas of plastering, bricklaying, carpentry and joinery.
Look beyond the Construction and the industry isn’t in isolation by way of gender balance with the Armed Forces and Fire fighters, perhaps understandably, also showing low levels of female employment.
|Industry||% of Women in Workforce|
|Construction – on site||1.0|
|UK Regular Forces||9.0|
|Doctors under 30 years of age||61.0|
|Doctors 30 to 50 years of age||46.0|
Women employed in skilled manual work that we now associate with men is not a new concept and can be traced back in history as far as the Statute of Artificers of 1562. This act brought in the parish apprenticeship with records showing that 34% were girls covering 51 occupations including bricklayers, carpenters and joiners, stonemasons and furniture makers. So what it is that stops females taking up the option today when conditions, life expectancy and Health & Safety have improved the lot of this cornerstone industry. Based on the predicted need for new homes alone over the next five to ten years, the Construction industry needs a huge injection of skilled labour so why not women?
21st Century Women in Construction
It’s not an easy life actually working on site so that possibly explains the low numbers but associated occupation such as architects are a great career option. Student numbers for the profession show that 44% are female which bears out the appeal however only 12% make partner. Some of the best and most famous buildings have been designed by women. One of the UK’s more famous architects is Angela Brady. Angela was elected president of the UK’s Royal Institute of British Architects for a two-year term in 2011. She has since dished out some serious advice to the industry stating that to stop talented women leaving the profession, the industry needs to act quickly. In essence attitudes need overhauling and it seems that there is much more that can be done to entice new talent to stay including parity in terms of salary and opportunity.
Female architect Zaha Hadid designed the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympics
The laymen amongst us we might be forgiven for thinking that an architect is someone with a technical ability to design buildings, someone who looks at a space and figures out how use it. We would be right but look a bit closer and we’ll find inspirational people who collaborate on a huge scale to take ideas and release them, manipulating not just materials but light and detail to create buildings that are functional, efficient and sustainable. Buildings that improve the environment and that are in context with their surroundings. Good buildings can lift people so it’s not just about the way they sit in the landscape, often in an iconic way. They have to work and benefit the people who use them. Architects need empathy, integrity, determination, stamina, courage and the ability to deal with complex problems. Along with the artistry they are responsible for budgets, materials and the management and orchestration of huge teams of people.
Sounds like a job for the girls…..