By Yvonne Baker
Today the wonderfully named ‘Chicks with Bricks’ – a group celebrating women in construction roles and industries – are having a celebration event. Unfortunately I can’t make it this time but I went to one not so long ago, meeting a vast range of women, and men, working on major and not so major projects, and all with great stories to tell. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening in a wonderful location, overlooking the mall. Not a hard hat in sight – just loads of bright young, and not so young, people working in construction, networking with huge enthusiasm and loving what they do.
The main reason I love Chicks with Bricks, however, is their name. At last, an organisation celebrating women in engineering and associated roles that doesn’t feel the need to err from a bit of gentle humour, and is confident enough to poke just a little bit of fun at itself. Perhaps that’s the secret of its success – capturing the spirit of today’s young women where it isn’t a question of whether they believe they can do these things, but a question of whether they want to.
How much better is that than the constant digging over of the ‘barriers’ young women – or young men for that matter – might face in an engineering or other STEM job. How many more reports do we really have to have, detailing the issues that MIGHT be faced by a young woman on a building site when she is the only female engineer there?
The points is, it is easy to highlight the difficulties people might face in any walk of life, and I’m not disputing that some women (and again men) find issues in engineering or construction environments. However, let’s not lose sight of the other (often inconvenient, to the naysayers) realities, including:
- Engineering and construction offers great opportunities for women at all levels – FACT.
- An increasing number of women have been making great careers for themselves in all kinds of engineering and other science & technology related environments in recent years, so making it easier for others to follow suit – FACT. Two things arise from this – firstly, if they can do it, so can you; secondly, they have worked hard to be pioneers so don’t let their trail-blazing go to waste.
- Many more people – men as well as women – in engineering, science and technology environments want you to succeed than you would ever believe listening to some of the doom-mongers – FACT. To believe otherwise is doing these supporters a huge disservice and robbing yourself of opportunities that can lead to so much more.
And, before you ask, I’m talking from some experience – as a female engineer on chemical plants in the mid-1980s onwards, I had a huge variety of experiences, mostly great and some quite difficult. What they taught me was a range of skills – including resilience, tenacity and a belief in my own abilities – which have served me well throughout a varied, exciting and at times hugely challenging career.
So, good luck to Chicks with Bricks! I really hope you go from strength to strength, inspiring women and men in construction but also being proud of being just a little bit different, making it into a selling point rather than almost an apology.
Let’s face it, we don’t see much else sold in this world using messages that concentrate on difficulties and challenges – so why do some people seem to insist on this when it comes to discussing women in science, engineering, construction and technology? Perhaps a little more ‘chutzpah’ rather than talk about barriers would be good for us all….?
For brilliant resources on careers in STEM and women in STEM industries, visit our easy to access eLibrary at the National STEM Centre.
For teachers and technicians, why not try our ‘Careers in STEM with STEM day‘ for some high quality CPD for more knowledge in STEM careers.