Building a future with women in construction


Image: © Tashi-Delek | iStock

Kate Morement, head of risk and compliance, Assent, says much progress has been made by women in construction over the last 20 years, but there is still more to be done

I took a very non-traditional route into the world of construction. Having begun my working life as a shelf-stacker with a supermarket chain and rising through the management ranks before I realised that retail wasn’t for me, I took a temporary job with a housebuilder’s health and safety team. It gave me a taste of the industry and when the opportunity to turn this into a permanent role arose, I grabbed it.

It was in this role that I was teamed with a wonderful female mentor with whom I still keep in touch today. She was the technical director of an asbestos health and safety consultancy, and she was the female role model that I needed when I was 18 years old. If it wasn’t for Karen, I would not be doing what I’m doing today.

She told me that there would be challenges as a woman in construction and she was
correct.

There weren’t many women in construction 20 years ago and so when I visited sites, I unfortunately experienced some inappropriate comments and reactions. I also didn’t feel like my voice or opinions were given serious consideration in meetings.

Seniority wasn’t always a guarantee of change

With few women in senior roles in construction, these challenges continued as I climbed the ladder. I’ll never forget being the only woman in a meeting with 15 men and it being a real challenge to be listened to in this and other similar situations.

I’m from a family of strong women and I relished the challenge to make a change. As the years passed, I gradually found my voice was heard and I was able to establish my authority and leadership.

A turn for the better

I’m pleased to say that in recent years there have been many positive changes and there are now more women in senior positions. It’s quite a different landscape to when I started my career; there are many initiatives in place for friendly sites and positivity now pervades. A lot of the comments I heard when I started would now not be tolerated.

The PPE and portable toilet issues show there is more still to be done

There is, however, still much more to be done for women to achieve equity in construction.

One of my bugbears is that PPE – which is nothing short of an absolute necessity in the industry – is rarely made with women in mind. I was astounded to be told that one of the major PPE suppliers to the industry did not stock sizes for women.

We’re in a world where there is equality, but it is not always demonstrated in all sectors. We need to ensure a duty of care for everyone!

It’s the same with portable toilets. Generally, there is just one facility for everyone to use without any consideration for who is on site. Although we want more women in the industry, we’re not yet changing the industry standards or addressing welfare requirements which come under the Health & Safety Act.

Changes post-6 April aren’t about men or women

With the 6 April deadline fast approaching for registered building control inspectors and approvers to register with the Building Safety Regulator (BSR), there are a lot of changes still to be made.

Dame Judith Hackitt asked for change in the industry, in particular culture, mindset and safety, and the introduction of measurable competence. Building control professionals, irrespective of sex, play a vital role helping deliver buildings that are safe, sustainable and accessible to all.

Everyone’s opinion matters

I am a massive advocate of women in construction and want to give them the opportunity to progress. Only yesterday, I promoted my senior quality coordinator to the position of head of quality assurance after she recently demonstrated her extensive knowledge at a senior level, as she supported the business in addressing the changes brought about by the new BSR regime. It feels like she’s the next equivalent of me in the industry. If I can help women. on their journey, I will.

If I could give just one piece of advice to women who are in or who would like to work in construction, it would be for them to take the opportunity that exists for women to have their voice heard and progress. I can confidently say that all voices are listened to and respected within Assent and more widely in the industry. I would urge women to pursue the many opportunities currently available at this time of exciting change in the construction industry.

 

Kate Morement

Assent Building Control

Tel: 01924 229180

admin@assentbc.co.uk

assentbc.co.uk

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