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Currently, only around 14% of the construction workforce comprises women but this number is on the rise. This year, the theme is ‘Many Paths, One Mission’ – namely to celebrate the many ways women are working to build success in the sector.
Catherine Whiteman has worked as a Built Environment Lecturer at Canterbury College for six years, before studying an Apprenticeship in Joinery for two years in London.
She said: "There were no women in my first workshop, but all the men treated me the same as each other. I really enjoyed that place and feel like I had the best possible start into the industry with that team.
They gave me heavy machinery tasks to build my strength, respected that I'd understand instructions and included me in the workplace banter. When I was on site, I'd often be presented with the same comment of 'you don't see many women in this industry', but that always came across as genuine interest from them, rather than an exclusion."
Catherine has noted the increase of young women wanting to enter the industry. She said: "During my teaching career, I've generally had only one or two female learners in my classes, however in the last two years that has almost doubled!
I also teach the Design, Surveying and Planning for Construction T Level and have had more young women show interest for the course at College Open Days than I've taught in my whole six years!"
One student aiming to change perceptions of the construction workforce is Kay Taylor, studying Level 2 Carpentry. She said: “I chose to study carpentry because I felt as if there weren’t enough women in trade and I wanted to make the difference I wanted to see within the workplace.
At first I did have a stigma around me being a woman in construction, but I soon overcame it when I showed them my abilities and that I’m able and willing to do the course.
I’m really enjoying my time at Canterbury College, I love the fact that there’s so many different aspects to the course. When I’m older, I’d love to have my own carpentry business to completely abolish the idea it’s only a man’s trade.
I feel as if, by going into construction, we’re paving the way for the younger generations and giving them the courage to do what we’ve done.”
Another learner with plans to make it big in the construction industry is Grace Baker, currently completing a Level 2 Electrical qualification.
She said: “At first I was very nervous joining College, knowing I’d probably be one of the only women in a group of men but I shouldn’t have been nervous at all. I feel like I’ve really fit in well, everyone’s treated equally, and I’ve never felt less than the boys.
“My plans for the future are to hopefully become a fully licensed electrician. After I finish my Level 2, I want to move onto Level 3 and hopefully one day I’ll be able to even have my own business.”