An increasing number of women are entering construction, including a third of entrants from higher education. Overall women make up around 14% of construction industry professionals and misconceptions about gender specific roles are gradually diminishing with the growing number of women choosing a career in construction.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, CITB Apprenticeships Officer Barbara Hastie, 45, explains why this is a great time for women to enter the construction industry.
“I left school in Selkirk, Scotland, at the age of 16, not knowing what direction I wanted to go in.
My father, who was in the trades, suggested I enrol at the local Borders College on a full time course studying painting and decorating. Until that point no one had ever suggested to me that a girl could do a trade craft for a living – it was only seen as something for the boys!
That was the beginning of my journey through a wide, varied career revolving around the construction industry.
It was hard at first, on my first day at college, as I was the only female in the class. I managed to gain an apprenticeship with a local company and became a fully qualified painter and decorator, working alongside my fellow tradesmen.
Being the only girl never bothered me, it just pushed me on to prove the men wrong and that a female can do the same job as a man, if not better! I took part in lots of local and national competitions with my skills, and as I travelled around I found that there were more and more females picking up the trade.
I then went on to start my own successful painting and decorating company and worked hard being self-employed. Then an opportunity arose at the college I trained at. They were looking for a lecturer for the painting and decorating department.
I applied and successfully got the role and became the first female construction lecturer in Scotland. I taught there for over 15 years and ran the department, teaching at all different levels from nursery right through to Advanced Craft level, from students aged 4 – 54. I gained lots more qualifications and a teaching degree, which I never imagined I could do. I even got my story told in a book!
I went onto work with the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) as an External Verifier. I was the first female craft External Verifier for SQA and helped devise the qualification that they have today, as well as visiting other Scottish colleges to ensure standards were being met for the painting and decorating awards.
In a way, I have come full circle ─ for the last three years I have worked at CITB as an Apprenticeships Officer, helping, encouraging, and supporting apprentices in their trades, just as CITB did for me when I first started my apprenticeship. I love my job and would encourage any girls out there to consider construction as a worthwhile career. There are so many diverse roles that you can do and so much opportunity to build upon your skills and qualifications.
It’s where you can actually see the fruits of your labours: the buildings, houses and infrastructure are there forever for everyone to see, and being female should not discourage you. The construction industry is full of amazing individuals from all walks of life building a better future.”