Event, General, Politics, Women's History

Making Changes by Making History: Women in Construction

One of the biggest ways to have a positive impact upon the professional development of girls and young women is to acknowledge the achievements of women across all walks of life, including in fields of engineering, literature, science, art, sports, education, medicine, and even construction. While the field of construction has been traditionally dominated by men, some interesting results have come to light by a recent study into recruitment and retention of women in construction. A study by Randstad anticipates over the next five years that more and more women will be entering the field of construction, including filling more senior roles in the industry. The study shows the proportion of construction jobs held by women as of 2015 stands at twenty percent (20%). The recruitment specialists at Randstad CPE expect women to fill more than a quarter of all constructions jobs by the year 2020.

Some examples of women involved in prominent construction projects include the Waterloo Bridge, One World Trade Centre, The Shard, and the Thames Tideway Tunnel.   The Waterloo Bridge originally opened in 1817 as a toll bridge, but fell into such disrepair by the 1920s, resulting in its closure until temporary reinforcements were introduced.  The bridge was later demolished and replaced with a new structure designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.  The new bridge was opened in 1942 but not completed until 1945. It was the only bridge on the Thames that was damaged during the Second World War by German bombers. The building contractor at the time, Peter Lind & Company Limited, hired a predominately female work force on the rebuild. At that time there was estimated to be about 25,000 women in the UK construction sector. The Waterloo Bridge is affectionately referred to as “Ladies Bridge” because of the key role women had in its construction.

Thanks to: http://www.thamestidewaytunnel.co.uk/images/logo-new.png

 (accessed 4 July 2015)

This is just one early example of women making an impact on major construction projects.   In more recent years construction projects have seen women taking on more senior roles like that of architect Nicole Dosso, Technical Director of the construction project known as One World Trade Centre. Dosso was the single senior technical coordinator representing Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) on the day-to-day execution of the job. For all intents and purposes it could be said that a woman built the tallest tower in North America. For her contribution to the rebuilding of the World Trade Centre site, Nicole Dosso was honoured by the US National Association of Professional Women in Construction in 2006.

The Shard, also known as The Shard of Glass, is a ninety-five (95)-storey skyscraper in Southwark, London; it forms part of the London Bridge Quarter development. Currently the tallest building in the European Union, it is another example of a prominent construction project partly lead by a woman. Roma Agrawal, a strong minded and multi-talented woman was the structural engineer of the Shard. Architects and structural engineers like Agrawal began re-evaluating the design of tall structures after the destruction of New York’s World Trade Centre (WTC) on September 11, 2001. The Shard’s early conceptual designs were directly amended as a result of the publication of the report on the collapse of the WTC.  Already considered London’s new emblem, The Shard, with the help of Roma Agrawal is designed to maintain its stability under very onerous conditions. Attracting more women to the construction industry has also been an active campaign by Roma Agrawal.

Roma Agrawal

Thanks to: http://www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk/_resources/images/Roma_Agrawal_on_74th_230.jpg (Accessed 4 July 2015)

One of the current major construction projects playing an active role in ensuring diversity in its workforce is the Thames Tideway Tunnel. While a large number of management roles on the project are already being held by women, the CEO of the project aims to have at least half of the workers to be female. The construction of the project is not expected to being until 2016 and is expected to take seven to eight years to finish.  The tunnel will run mostly under the River Thames through central London and is intended to reduce the occurrence of overflows into the river by providing storage and conveyance of combined rainwater discharges and raw sewage.

These are just a few examples of how women are directly involved in construction projects at all levels in the industry.  This is truly the beginning of a cultural revolution that will help UK construction reach its true potential.

Bethany Cornell (c) June 2015)

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