This International Women’s Day, our Marketing Executive Bianca Burgio held a round table conversation with three of our Project Managers Jessica Araujo, Peace Olaniyi, and Siobhan Kearney, alongside one of our Business Analysts Bahar Cankaya to understand what #BreakTheBias means to them.
We started with an open question as to whether gender bias exists in the industry and there was a resounding ‘yes’ from our panel, who have all worked within construction for several years. Interestingly, there was a notable difference in their experience when teams were based in the office, when compared to on-site.
Siobhan started – “Without question, there is gender bias in construction. It does happen in the office, but I tend to find it occurs more on site. If we, as women, make a mistake then we are judged for making a mistake that only a woman could, but alternatively people overcompensate when you do something well – because they will be surprised that you were capable.”
Peace told of an office experience that called out bias brought in from the outside. “A delivery driver came into the office to drop off some supplies and confused me as the receptionist. When I told him I worked in the design team – his response was ‘fair play to you.’ He did not hide his surprise.”
The team shared other examples of where they were met with jokes about being a woman in construction. Jessica shared, “I was on site and took some hand cream along with me, this raised a lot of laughs and comments from male colleagues – until they ended up asking to borrow some hand cream!”
When asked about their own personal experiences – both good and bad, Bahar opened with her experience, “In previous roles, I felt my work was questioned a lot because I was female, so my ability really came into question, but within a few weeks in my current role I felt I was being judged on the merit of my work and started to progress quickly.”
Jessica added that she feels that unfortunately a point still needs to be proved. “You do have to prove yourself a little bit more – regardless of the task, to really show that you can do the same thing that a man can.”
Offering a different perspective Bianca contributed “Coming from a Marketing background and viewing this from outside, whenever I think of Construction, I think of it as a very male dominated field and it has always been this way to me. However, I know that over the last few years there has been a visible change in the position of women in the industry and this must be maintained over the coming years.”
Looking ahead as to what can be done to ‘break the bias’ the panel were united in giving a clear steer to the path to equality. Siobhan stated that “Change must be driven from the top. The industry is facing a generational issue and so many men hold senior roles, so time will help drive change.”
"That’s not to say that promoting women is the solution.” Bahar added, “It’s important that people are hired for their capability and experience. If we promote women to fill a quota, we are driving positive bias.”
All the panel agreed that teaching people how to correctly communicate with each other regardless of gender is crucial. Peace continued, “businesses should increase their knowledge on this, and employees should feel safe to speak about any issue that may occur to them.”
To close the session, the panel offered up advice to the next generation of women coming into the industry, we were met with inspiration and support.