Sarah Seabright (L) and Rebecca Shiels (R)
Sarah Seabright (L) and Rebecca Shiels (R) talk through their experiences of being a woman in the construction industry

Member Article

Women in Construction – tackling the misconceptions

While perceptions of construction may be that it is still very manual, male-orientated and a ‘dirty’ industry, it can offer huge and rewarding opportunities for women who want to carve a career out in this sector.

Following International Women’s Day on March 8th, Wates Construction Framework Manager, Sarah Seabright and Production Management Trainee Rebecca Shiels, both based in the North West, outline their thoughts on what being a woman in construction means to them at the different stages of their careers, as well as discuss how the industry can do more to encourage more girls into the industry.

**1. What made you seek a career in construction? ** Sarah Seabright: I have always worked in graphic design roles, initially for places like Manchester University or Greater Manchester Police, and never thought I’d find myself working in construction. A friend recommended me to Wates, initially for a Desktop Publishing role and I’ve not looked back after 12 years. I would not have looked for a design role within a construction company but you’d be surprised at the roles a construction business has to offer!

*Rebecca Shiels: I knew I wanted to work in a challenging, fast pace environment, which makes a real difference to people’s lives. Construction offers this and more. As a woman, I initially had reservations on my suitability for the role but quickly discovered I had nothing to worry about – there’s just as many opportunities for women as men here. *

**2. What is the best bit of the job? ** Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s the people. You spend many hours at work, you have to enjoy what you do and the people at Wates make the business what it is.

*Everyday really is different. Each day I have the opportunity to learn and develop new skills, speak to different people and strengthen my construction knowledge. *

**3. What have you found most challenging? ** I have had many challenges within my roles at Wates but it has helped me grow in my career - without challenges you don’t know what you are actually capable of.

*Aside from the early mornings (!), the most challenging aspect was learning how to develop my own management style - one that suited my personality and gender. I don’t believe you should have to behave in a traditionally masculine way to succeed in a male dominated environment. *

**4. Would you say there’s a need for education early on to show young girls the appeal of working in construction? ** Construction is not just bricks-and-mortar - there’s a huge range of jobs and talents that make up this industry and we need to educate girls about this! I’m proud to work for Wates, who take a real lead in this, doing school visits, actively mentoring students and providing work experience in all areas to help educate the next generation. I also think we need to make it clear that you don’t need a construction background to work in the industry as it needs lots of transferable skills. I was 26 when I joined the Construction Industry as a qualified graphic designer - who would have thought this is where I’d end up?

*Most definitely. I don’t believe enough is done to promote how many roles construction really has - it is not all muddy boots on a building site! Construction needs to connect the dots for young aspirational girls who want a challenging and successful career. *

**5. Would you recommend others follow your career path? Why? ** Definitely. You have to work hard, but at Wates you are not restricted to one role - there is a lot to learn and skills to learn and opportunities along the way. I have had a successful career so far, with the support of Wates as a business and the managers, colleagues and clients that have surrounded me on my journey, and I hope to see even more progression in my future

*100% - I have developed so many new skills that are transferable to multiple roles in the industry. That is the best thing about construction, you can have the option to change roles and experience different careers, so you know you’re choosing the right one for you. *

**6. How do you feel Wates has supported your career? ** My first construction role was with Wates and the business has supported me every step of the way. I started as a Desktop Publisher then progressed into an Assistant Proposals role, received a promotion to Proposals Manager and last year was offered the role of Framework Manager for the North West. I have been given opportunities to learn new skills - last year I completed a Level 5 Management and Leadership course with the CMI. This helped me immensely with the skills I need to be a Framework Manager.

*From the start, Wates have a detailed programme in place to ensure that you get as much varied experience as possible and have a taste of everything construction has to offer within your first two years in the industry. In addition to this, everyone I work with at Wates will always offer to help with whatever I may be struggling with. The teams you work in become your strong support network, and I’d never feel awkward about asking for help from anyone. *

**7. Have you seen a difference in the number of women working in your industry over the last few years? ** I started in the construction industry 12 years ago, where in pre-construction there was only myself and one other lady. This has now tripled in my team alone, which is now full of women who are all respected and successful in their roles. Slowly but surely, we’re getting there – not just in Wates, but industry-wide.

*The change in the industry is slow, but it is happening. We now need to build this momentum even more by focusing on how we can encourage more women into the industry and hold on to those already in the sector. *

**8. What would you say to future generations of women who want to get into the industry? ** Be open to what the industry can offer you - we are equals at the end of the day and you can put your mind to anything. I have never felt any difference being a woman working in construction and there shouldn’t ever be.

Don’t be afraid that you don’t ’fit’ with the industry stereotype- being the exception holds a lot of value, and construction is a great industry to work in. Don’t let misconceptions about it stop you from having an amazing career!

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Beth Jones .

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