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Women in Construction: Building a Career in a Male-Dominated Industry

Construction is an industry currently dominated by men with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) recently reporting that women make up just 14% of the total UK construction workforce.

Furthermore, 29% of the women surveyed thought construction meant on-site work only. However, there are a wide variety of careers in the industry, such as:

  • Accountancy
  • Architecture
  • Ecology
  • Heritage Consultancy
  • Project Management
  • Quantity Surveying

Blueoak have been speaking to bricklayer, Emma Coyle and construction company director, Sara Drury to hear their thoughts on how the industry can attract more women and what the reality is of working in a male-dominated environment.

Emma Coyle, Self Employed Bricklayer

I knew I wanted to do something hands-on when I was in school. My careers advisor supported me and so I went on to do an apprenticeship with Carillion Training Services where I got my Level 1 and Level 2 in Bricklaying. 

Once I was qualified, I put a post out on Facebook looking for a job and I was employed a few days later. My first build was in Huyton and it’s been project after project ever since. At the moment, I’m working on Blueoak’s Village Mews site on Caldy Road in West Kirby.

Every time I start a new project, the guys say that I’m the first female brickie that they’ve met or worked with. I met a female roofer once but I’ve not met any other female trades but I never feel at a disadvantage for being a woman. I’m treated fairly.

If I was speaking to a girl thinking of working in the construction industry, I would say don’t let other people’s perspectives stop you, just do it. It’s amazing to see a house that you’ve built and think ‘I did that’. You don’t need to be strong; you just need to be willing to learn.

I really enjoy the job and I’m going to keep learning, keep building up my experience and maybe have my own business one day or even build my own house.

Sara Drury, Director of Caldru Construction

I worked for the local government for 17 years in various roles, but my family are all in construction – my husband, my dad, my uncles and my brothers. My husband had a construction business which was growing and he kept asking me to come and work with him. I kept saying no because I had a good job but two years ago, I joined the business.

I thought “this is going to be great, I’m going to be working from home warm and cosy doing the lads wages.” It didn’t turn out quite like that! I finished my job in the council and within a few days, I was at Blueoak’s Lancaster Square site on Volunteer Street in Chester.

I took a 5-day Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS) with CITB and started working on Blueoak’s Lancaster Square site on Volunteer Street in Chester, managing the health and safety side of things. It was a learning process that I grasped and loved and I’m really grateful to Blueoak for giving me the opportunity.

I found working in a male-dominated environment hard at first. There were just little things like people assuming someone else was the manager because I was a woman. But now I love the job. It’s totally different to working 9 to 5 in an office and I really like being in the thick of it. Everyone mucks in, gets involved and supports each other.

The current rate of women entering the industry is poor but I do think it’s increasing. I just don’t think girls realise that it’s not just physical jobs. Obviously, they can do the physical jobs too but there’s also quantity surveying, finance, estimating, site management.

What I would say to a girl thinking about working in the industry is don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it. You will get people in life who will say that but if you want to do something, do it.

Useful Links

Women into Construction
An independent not-for-profit organisation that provides bespoke support to women wishing to work in the construction industry.
https://www.women-into-construction.org/

Go Construct
Showcases the many career opportunities available in construction and the built environment.
https://www.goconstruct.org/

Chicks with Bricks
A proactive network created to enable and promote female talent in the property and construction industry
https://www.chickswithbricks.com/

NAWIC
An international not-for-profit organisation of women working in the construction industry
https://www.nawic.co.uk/

Women in Construction UK Magazine 
A bimonthly leading trade publication
https://womeninconstructionuk.co.uk/

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