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Speaking out about opportunities for women is critical to solving the skills crisis

Making more women aware of the opportunities a career in construction can offer is critical to attracting more people into the sector and resolving the ongoing skills crisis the industry faces.

In this episode of The Engineers Collective, NCE editor Claire Smith speaks to Willmott Dixon construction manager Lianne Lawson and Mott MacDonald development manager for energy Clare Rhodes James about their experiences coming into the sector as women as the industry prepared to mark International Women in Engineering Day last week.

The three start by discussing how they each came to study engineering and construction and the issues they experienced with people either being firmly behind them or trying to discourage them from that career path.

The group consider how the sector has changed for young women coming into it now compared to when they were early in their careers. They mostly see positive change but believe that more needs to be done to ensure school children understand the opportunities and have the chance to choose construction rather than being guided down other career paths.

Claire referenced her recent interview with Women’s Engineering Society CEO Elizabeth Donnelly on the need for more engineering role models in society. Elizabeth told Claire that the general public still don’t see engineers in the way they do doctors or lawyers. “Elizabeth said that you see doctors and lawyers portrayed on television and in fiction, but engineering only has visibility in documentary formats,” explained Claire. “As a result she says that most women who come into the engineering profession already have family or a family friend in the industry, which is why International Women in Engineering Day is so important.”

Clare and Lianne agreed that greater outreach was needed and that gender parity in the construction sector was possible, in time, particularly with an emphasis that working in construction does not always mean being on site and wearing PPE.

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