The construction industry has long recognised that it is not as accessible as it should be to women wanting to join its ranks. While progress has been made in attracting increasing numbers of women into construction careers, there is still a long way to go.
Download your copy of the Building Equality: Women in Construction report for an overview of the progress being made in building equality in the construction industry, and a summary of the road ahead.
Q&A with Heidi Wood
Heidi is excelling in her construction career as an Assistant Site Manager in Cheltenham. While she originally trained in law, she migrated to construction to work initially as a Site Administrator. Heidi is currently finalising her NVQ level 7 in construction management after already completing NVQ 3, SMSTS and other site related qualifications. She spoke to us about her role and the challenges she has faced.
What originally attracted you to the construction industry, was it your first choice for a career?
Being a legal graduate, I didn’t think my chosen career path would be in the construction industry, especially on site. Having said that, I was first drawn to the industry when I helped to establish a small building company with my partner. My involvement on the building projects progressed over the years and I realised that working in this industry was the only career I would be passionate about.
Have you encountered any challenges working in a historically male-dominated industry?
While gender diversity in the construction industry is very poor, I can honestly say that I have not encountered any challenges from working in this area. There are many myths about the industry still, but I truly feel we have moved past the stereotypes. As the workplace is still male dominated, occasionally a contractor on site will address one of the men standing nearby rather than me. I’ve accepted this is the nature of the beast, but it is always quickly clarified.
"57% of women surveyed feel they do not have equal opportunities for career progression." - Building Equality: Women in Construction report
Do you feel women in construction have equal opportunity for career progression?
I do feel women have equal opportunities for career progression in the industry. You don’t get anywhere in your job by playing on the fact you’re a women, you have to be good at your job.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Working on building projects and building homes for people is the most rewarding part of my job. Buying a house is the single biggest purchase many of us will ever make.
How do you think construction has developed in terms of gender equality? Are there any myths or stereotypes you wish to dispel about working on a construction site?
The construction industry is progressing slowly, stereotypes still persist. I meet new people on site constantly, everyone from company directors to delivery drivers and people in the trade. I have never had a negative first meeting with anyone, some people I meet are slightly surprised possibly but never negative. I believe this reaction from some when they initially meet me on site is due to the rarity of the situation and not as a reflection of any ‘sexist’ stereotype.
“Heidi’s greatest strengths on site are her temperament and communication skills. A good example of this in action was when she diffused a disagreement with a difficult subcontractor. The way she handled the situation ensured that work was still completed on time and in good order. When Heidi started with me she was relatively inexperienced, however she is quick to learn and improved her build knowledge greatly. She is popular with customers and in my opinion will make an excellent site manager in the future.” - Site Manager, Bovis Homes
What advice would you give to a woman wanting to work in the construction industry?
I’m really comfortable in who I am and what I’ve accomplished. You just have to go in there and show them you are a professional and you know what you’re talking about. Don’t be intimidated, if you know what you’re doing, you won’t have a problem. You don’t need to be aggressive, but you do need to be assertive.
How has working with a recruitment agency helped you progress your career?
Hays really took the time and effort to get to know me, I believe the involvement they have in placing candidates into suitable roles is crucial for career progression.
Share your views on diversity in the workplace by taking our Gender Diversity Survey.
To find out more, or to discuss your recruitment needs in this field, please contact your local consultant.