How I became a female leader in construction
“Study, play sports, take care of your body, learn home duties, look for a job, think about having children, women can’t run, women can’t play football, women can’t build furniture, women can’t have high positions at work”. These are just a few out of many misconceptions that I’ve grown up listening to, and I am sure many other women have shared the same experience.
My name is Giulia and I want to share my short, but very intense story about the journey that led me to open a company in the construction industry.
As far as I can remember, I have always refused to be forced to follow certain stereotypes or beliefs that were perpetuated long before I was even born. They just never worked well for me.
I was raised by a single mum and no one more than her has taught me how to be confident about myself, my skills, my values and my opinions. I have been lucky enough to be raised by a superwoman, as I like to call her. My mother taught me how to face problems, how to find solutions, how to live in a men’s world being a woman. She taught me how to cook but also how to drive a car; how to make my bed in the morning and how to pay taxes; how to put make-up on and how to change a broken bulb.
She has given me the freedom and opportunity to choose my studies, to choose the path in life that I wanted to follow, always being there for me if needed.
All of this has led me to the point where I am now: a female entrepreneur and owner of my own company in the construction industry, an industry that is still disproportionately dominated by men.
It hasn’t been easy, and it’s hard to envisage things getting easier for women in construction in the future. But I’m strong, I have a lot to fight for, and I will always try to become the best I can be, by accepting both challenges and failures.
The path that led me here started with my university studies. To be honest, our classroom was evenly divided with both men and women. Surprisingly enough though, once I entered the work world, I realised straight away how little the female representation is in the actual construction sector.
I worked for roughly four years, for agencies and companies in the retail design field: you will not be surprised to know that all of them were owned by men only.
Moreover during that time, I came to realise that my job (which was the same job and level of seniority as my male colleagues), was paid less. This gave me the strength to try and make a difference, to change something, for myself and for other females in construction.
Can a woman be a construction manager?
I decided to open a business to pursue a dream; that doesn’t mean that every woman should open a business, but only that every woman should follow her dreams. I became a design director to run the business, something that in hindsight, I wish I considered when I was a fresh graduate. In becoming my own boss, I want to promote sound ethical values, I want to help to influence a better future for the society we live in.
While International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate women’s contribution to our society, the fact remains that there is still much inequality between genders.
Women in construction statistics:
According to the 2020 figures from the ONS’ Labour Force Survey, the number of women employed in the UK construction industry is 298,000, in comparison to 1,939,000 men working in the sector. In this case, the split is 13% women in contrast to 87%. This is quite an alarming wake-up call. In the same report, we can see that employment in construction was at its highest for females in the third quarter of 2017, with 321,000 women working in the sector.
It is obvious that the construction industry, like many others, is facing a massive inequality challenge. At this rate, it will take almost 200 years to achieve gender equality in the construction industry.
There are many misconceptions about gender specific roles, and this is a major factor as to why the employment figures are not equal. Luckily there are a number of initiatives in place to help gradually address and diminish this inequality, designed to help increase the number of women choosing a career in construction.
How do you promote women in construction?
Step by step a new era of female leaders will join what is predominantly a male workforce.
I plan to start with Metiu, together with my business partner, our little idea, now a reality, that will hopefully be other people’s reality too in the near future.
Metiu’s workforce is (and will always strive to be) evenly spread between all genders. Our personnel will be comprised of designers, architects, engineers, project managers, accountants, builders, contractors, and many other professionals within the construction industry.
Ideally, each department will be formed by a variety of people from different countries, religions, sexual orientations and genders. Each treated in the same way; they will all have paternity/maternity leave; the same opportunity to build their careers; increase their skills and have access to equal pay.
Although there are many examples of companies that are driving towards this already, I will try my best to influence and talk to the younger generation, to make a social impact and to contribute as much as I can for gender equality.
If you are thinking about a career in construction, get in touch, especially if you don’t know where to start from, I can help.
But why am I telling you my story?
What I want to achieve with this brief article is inspiration and empowerment, giving confidence and strength to all those amazing women out there that have brilliant ideas and innovative ways of thinking, but haven’t had real examples of how to do it.
Remember, we can be builders, designers, directors, we can run businesses and so much more…
Get in touch if you have any questions, or if you would like some help with your ideas; ‘Women can help each other and be stronger together.’