Have you heard any stereotypes about women working in construction? Probably, we all have. That is why it is the right time to change it! Check our article about the inspiring stories of women in construction and discover why they love their jobs!
Women who work in construction have to deal with various stereotypes. Even though they make up 11% of the industry, they are still often treated as an addition to the male sector. That is why today, we want to present to you three incredible women, who show that there is no strict stereotype that women must fit into in order to work in construction. They also prove that even with a different approach and experience, you can find a place in construction where you truly belong.
Ivana Olekšáková - since childhood, she was passionate about architecture, design, construction and new technologies. After graduating at the Faculty of Civil Engineering, she began her career in the IT World. Currently, Ivana manages to combine both fields while being responsible for implementing an ERP system for the construction industry.
Essra Qattawi - completed an industrial engineering degree in Jordan. During her first years of career, she worked in the management sector, where she was responsible for analysing and improving existing construction processes. Currently lives and works in Dubai as Engineering Department Manager.
Elise Cooper - part of the construction industry for around three years. Currently, at the sales administrator position, Elise is responsible for analysis, documentation and contact with project managers on sites. She is passionate about her job and possibilities of learning new things.
Many young women who are considering starting their career in construction know very little about the possibilities within the industry. According to Dr Phillippa Carnemolla from the UTS School of Built Environment, many students are convinced that they can work in the sector only after graduating from engineering studies.
The construction industry is much more complex in real life, offering a wide range of career possibilities, not only for engineers. Elise’s career path proves it, as before starting her job as Sales Administrator, she did not have any particular experience in construction. However, it turned out that it was not an obstacle as she could perform all her activities while constantly expanding her knowledge.
Also, we need to realise that the industry is constantly changing. For example, we can observe more and more companies deciding to digitalise their processes. It results in an increased need for people with broader knowledge from different fields, like Ivana:
Construction and IT have always been my passions. That is why I really enjoy my current position, in which I am responsible for implementing new construction systems. It is challenging as people on site are often resilient to changes. Still, it is great to see how technology can greatly support the construction processes.
If we compare how we perceived gender roles 50 years ago and now, we can definitely see the difference. Currently, men are much more involved in family matters and we can often see a real partnership as well as an equal division of responsibilities, which has an effect on women’s professional careers. Also, women are much more present in the labour market, often occupying director’s positions. Still, some vivid stereotypes make it difficult for women to be part of the industry.
For example, women are often judged based on their physical appearance rather than their competence. Some working environments create an inexplicable pressure on women to prove that they are competent enough to have the job. As a result, women feel they should do more, work more or simply be more productive to be valued.
The emotional workload is a big issue that no one really talks about. It is especially hard for young mothers who, at the same time, have to deal with family issues. It makes them feel guilty about not being as productive as their male colleagues and forces women to take on even more tasks and responsibilities.
The law can also make it harder for women to juggle their professional and private life. For example, women in Dubai receive only 45 days of their maternity leave. It creates a huge problem for young mothers as they cannot leave such small babies in nursery schools but, at the same time, their jobs require them to be present in the office.
I also faced this challenge at the end of my maternity leave. Luckily, when I talked to my managers about it, they turned out to be extremely supportive. They offered me a separate room in the office to bring a nanny and my son. Thanks to that, I did not have to stress about the child but, at the same time, I was able to come back to work that I really enjoyed.
There is no better way to fight those stereotypes than raising society’s awareness and showing that the reality is entirely different. We need to demonstrate to younger generations that women are not only present in the industry, but they can also be satisfied and passionate about their jobs. The best way to do that is to give voice to women and in this matter, the voices of our interviewees emerged as a one strong message for young girls:
“Believe in yourself and listen to your inner voice. If you feel that construction interests you, give it a try. The beginnings might be challenging, but try to focus on your job, not on the things people around you think. Also, try not to pay so much attention to the stereotypes as on your way, you can find genuinely amazing people, both women and men.”
A decision to start a career in a specific field and beginnings in a new job are always challenging. That is why the support from family or friends and later on, the workplace’s atmosphere and colleagues' approach are crucial.
I think that support plays a significant difference, especially in the workplace. If my team were not so caring and supportive, I would not be in the place I am now.
In Archdesk, we think that support should also come from the outside, from our society. Of course, such changes happen long-term, but we believe that by showing the stories of inspiring women from different cultures, ages and backgrounds can definitely contribute to breaking the stereotypes much faster. That is why we created a campaign, Empower by Example, where we show how the construction industry is shaped by amazing women every day.
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