Women in Construction UK speaks to Alisha Petts, a 22 year old Trainee Building Control Surveyor, about her experience to date in the Construction Industry
My dream has always been to work in the construction industry as it is something that has appealed to me from a very young age. After dropping out of my first year at full time university, I was determined to make it into construction via another route. I instead applied for a trainee role where I attend university once a week and work the other four. Sitting in a classroom full time just wasn’t for me and the site work is what I was after. My role as a trainee building control surveyor varies and no two days are ever the same. I attend numerous site inspections a day to make sure the building work complies, which is a great way of getting hands on experience. I will also receive construction drawings from architects which I am to check for compliance, which helps with technical side of things. I love the plan checking aspect as it challenges your knowledge and pushes you into researching things that you perhaps didn’t already know. My job is a great combination as I am able to apply the knowledge I get in the office to the situations on site and vice versa. It’s also an exciting career to follow as you know that every day will be different and that you are constantly able to learn something new.
Women in Construction
As a woman who works in construction, I have had a range of opinions and experiences relating to my gender. I have been working as a building control surveyor for roughly two years now and previous to this job role, I can honestly say that I was a little apprehensive for what was in store for me being a woman and working within what people still class as a “man’s world” – construction.
My role at work revolves around ensuring that a builders work complies with the building regulations.
This means I have to go on site, check their work and let them know if anything needs changing. Truthfully, when I first started this job, that seemed like a daunting idea. Telling builders whether their work is right or wrong – uh oh, I thought. Thankfully I was wrong. Now of course there have been a few minor comments made regarding the fact that “what? A woman building inspector?” has entered their site, but nonetheless, I was expecting this. I simply let them know that it’s 2018 and that they need to keep up with the times. There have also been times where patronising comments have been made. For example, I attended a site visit for a rear extension and the builder pointed at the steel and said in a very degrading voice, ‘do you know what that is?’. I have also walked onto a site where the builder has asked me if I am there to clean! It’s times like this that I feel the old fashioned view of construction being a ‘man’s world’ still exists. Still, I try to just shrug off any comment that is made as this is a minority and doesn’t happen often. Also, more and more women are working jobs that would only ever have been deemed as ‘men’s work’ several decades ago so builders who do share this opinion had better get used to it – quickly
Experiences on Site
The amount of support I receive on site from builders is something I definitely was not expecting. As a
trainee, going on site can be difficult. This can be made
even more intimidating when you’re a 5ft 3 woman, about to face builders who have been working their trade for forty odd years. As my duty of a building inspector, I am to check their work for compliance and to advise where necessary. I thought this scenario up to be way worse than it actually is, as actually the support I receive is something I never expected. If, as a trainee, I am stuck with something (which can often happen), most builders have no problem with me asking a question. No sexist remarks made and no patronising comments, they’re simply just happy to help. This type of attitude resembles a huge change for women in construction and is the attitude we need for even more women to work within this field. Apart from the odd chat up line you’re faced with, most builders in today’s modern society are respectful and don’t think twice about the fact that it’s a woman advising them on what to do next.
Times are Changing
Going back to even just 20 or 30 years ago, I can imagine working within construction as a woman was tough. I am lucky enough to start my career at a time where the industry is more accepting and I believe that this is an exciting time for any female who works or wants to work amongst this industry. Due to the fact more and more women are undertaking roles in the realm of construction, means that change will keep happening, and that the old fashioned idea of men dominating this world will slowly but surely change. Women aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and we shouldn’t be held back from our goals and ambitions solely because of our gender. This is a generation where women are no longer seen as a part of the background, but are instead putting themselves forward to play important roles in construction. I personally feel that although we still have a way to go for equality in construction, we are on the right path to securing the change needed and to stand as a more diverse and accepting industry.