“Cross that bridge? I wanted to build that bloody bridge!” This was just one example of the many powerful messages conveyed by women from every corner of Northern Ireland’s construction industry at the Women in Construction Summit which took place recently.
The event was organised by The CITB NI Women in Construction Network and was the first of its kind to be staged here. “We are delighted to host our very first Women in Construction NI Summit in Northern Ireland,” said Barry Neilson, Chief Executive of CITB NI. “CITB NI run and facilitate the Women in Construction Network in Northern Ireland which is made up of a group of friendly, inspiring and dedicated women working in a wide range of roles within the construction industry. This summit was inspired by the network to help to support and promote diversity within the growing construction industry.”
The sold-out event featured an impressive line-up of speakers who shared inspirational stories, business advice and career development for women currently working in the construction industry. It also focussed on those who are thinking of joining and on employers who are working to support diversity in the industry. The event also provided thought-provoking tips on career management, help identifying key role models and an opportunity to expand professional networks.
After introductory speeches by event host, Sarah Travers and Barry Neilson, attendees were then treated to a staged performance entitled: ‘Building Bridges’ where that ‘build that bloody bridge’ line came from, together with many other interesting points of discussion which perfectly illustrated what it was like to be a woman in the construction industry. This drama laid out a timeline of the barriers women can face in their pursuit of a dream career in construction. Examples began with the seemingly innocent, like having to borrow her brother’s Lego, continuing right through to examples of outright discrimination in the workplace. It was entertaining, assertive, and sadly all too familiar for many of those in the audience who had experienced these kinds of situations and behaviours throughout both their personal lives and careers.
The conference also featured talks from leading industry professionals representing Arup, Clanmil Housing, Farrans, Gilbert-Ash, GRAHAM, GRAHAM- BAM Healthcare Partnership, Henry Brothers, McAleer & Rushe, Nicola McCracken Safety Services, NIFRS, Scottish Water, Turner & Townsend, White Ink, and Women’s TEC. These illuminating talks are now available on the CITB NI YouTube channel and website and contain a lot of valuable advice for employers who may be looking change the culture within their business and address their diversity standards.
Joan McCoy, Director of White Ink Architects and President of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects has complimented both the event itself and the support shown for it: “I wanted to take the opportunity to congratulate the CITB NI team on the conference. The line-up of speakers and the content was excellent. It occurred to me that the construction industry is a richer place because of the talent in the room and it was especially good to see the event supported by senior construction leaders.”
Reflecting on the inaugural Women in Construction NI Summit, Barry Neilson added: “With an ageing workforce, a skills shortage and the increasing use of new technologies, there has never been a better time to encourage more diversity in construction. Increasing the talent pool and making it easier for women and other under-represented populations to not just join the industry but to remain in the industry, is common sense for any employer. Given that it has been proven that more diversity in the workforce and particularly in leadership positions, can lead to higher profits and more innovation, it makes good business sense too.”
Though events like this are an important way to show our support for the many women – upwards of 21% in the UK – who make up the construction industry, it’s even more important to take the time to reflect on what we learn and address how it can be applied in every day life.