Quantity Surveyor Bethan Gibson has witnessed significant change in the construction industry in relation to the gender ratio, from work experience in a professional quantity surveying practice at the age of 16, through seeing the industry from the ‘other side of the fence’ with a placement at a main contractor at university, and since working with Sweet Projects.
However, Bethan feels more needs to be done to promote careers in construction, especially for women.
We have all heard the modern-day fable of “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Every job has an element of mundane tasks, but working in the construction industry is not far off this for me.
I’m currently working as a quantity surveyor (QS) with Sweet Projects. I initially joined as an assistant QS, and they have helped further develop my skillset and knowledge to get promoted to QS. I also have an undergraduate QS degree and fouryears of industry experience working my way up from a graduate role.
My fascination with construction started during my work experience at a quantity surveying consultancy, when I was at college. However, it was after a few months’ work placement as a trainee QS, during the summer break between my 2nd and 3rd year at university, that I decided I wanted to work for a main contractor.
I really like the fact that it is different every day and you get to work in different places with different challenges. Then, at the end of a project, you get to see a real product such as a road or a building, not just numbers on a screen.
There are so many sectors you can move into within construction – civils, build, rail, or construction for specialist industries, like we do here at Sweet Projects. The variety and breadth of future projects you could work on is really interesting.
Making young people aware earlier in their education that construction can be a route for everyone is so important.
A construction career, for all?
As a young female in the construction industry, I have seen that the role of women has evolved significantly over recent years and am pleased to say that this trend looks like it is continuing.
It’s fair to say that historically, construction has been a male-dominated field, but changes in society and cultural shifts have (rightly) led to an increase in women choosing a career in construction.
However, more awareness and education about the variety of roles in construction is needed, so women can see it as a career option – from QS to designers, engineers to document controllers, project managers to site managers and ground workers.
Many young people of both genders think of construction as a purely on-site job, like labourers, ground workers or construction operatives.
Most of my friends had never heard about being a QS until I explained it. The common comments are “Oh, you’re a brickie, you build walls, or you put in foundations”. The go-to mindset doesn’t consider all the people in the office, who actually do the contracts, plan the works, programme the works. Young people, more often than not, just think of the actual site, not the wider team behind it.
Making this clearer at a young age is definitely something that would help make more people aware of the opportunities within ‘construction’.
As a young woman at Sweet Projects, I don’t feel I am treated any differently to anyone in the office because I am female. I still get the jokes and chats, same as everyone else, and truly feel part of the team.
The archaic view of getting wolf whistled on sites, simply doesn’t happen anymore – thank goodness. If it did it would get stamped out straight-away, especially on the sites I’m working on.
Maybe this is down to the higher female ratio here – heading towards 1 in 4 colleagues being female, above the average construction industry levels of c.15% women in the workforce.
I’ve experienced lots more women joining the team in a range of roles. There were two women in our office when I started at Sweet, and now I can’t even count how many of us there are! Give it ten to twenty years and you’ll see far more female directors, which will further enhance construction as a career path for all.
More women is a good thing; it makes the industry more diverse. Different viewpoints, conversations, solutions and ways to approach situations all benefit from openly talking about things with colleagues and challenging each other.
At the end of the day, we have a culture here to only employ people we believe will be a good fit for our team, regardless of gender, background, race or other.
It doesn’t matter what gender you are or where you’re from; everyone is welcomed.Find out how Sweet Projects can help you, wherever you currently are, build your foundations in the construction industry, develop and forge your career, or support you to get to your next step up, by visiting our careers pages.