Spotlight on Kate Lloyd, Programme Manager from Constructing Excellence in the North East.
Welcome to the second instalment of the Spotlight on Diversity Champions blog series. We are excited to share Kate Lloyd's experience of working in the industry and what we need to do to achieve greater equality.
I was 13 when I first started to consider a career in engineering. When I chose Craft Design and Technology in my GCSE options I was summoned to the Deputy Head teacher’s office where she told me ‘Craft Design and Technology is for thick people’.
"Well, I’ve never liked people telling me what I can and can’t do, so I turned around and replied, ‘Well that’s what I’m going to do’ and I walked out."
This discussion was the first step towards my degree in Civil and Structural Engineering, my first job as a Site Engineer and the next 20 years working in the industry I love.
Working on site, I had some of the best colleagues I could have wished for, supportive, fun and accepting. There were of course some colleagues that didn’t match that description but even with this great support, working on site was very challenging. Proving your abilities every day is draining and the little comments build up and chip away at your self-confidence until you think, ‘There’s got to be an easier way to make a living’. Then when the opportunity to move on presented itself, I went for it and left working on site. There’s a bit of me that regrets that decision every time I set foot on site.
Over the years, I have heard some terrible stories from women working in the industry; 100 times worse than anything I had to face. I know I was incredibly lucky but I think this is where we must be careful about the way we promote the industry to women and girls. I have heard many people and organisations say that working in the industry is great and gender is no barrier. I have heard very senior women say that being a woman has not affected their career and that they have never experienced any discrimination or harassment.
"Well I’m really pleased for them, incredibly pleased for them, but they must understand they are a very, very, small minority."
In my opinion we must do two key things:
Firstly, we must be honest about the challenges people face when joining and working in the industry, and create the support systems to provide advice, guidance and friendship when people do find it difficult. If we continually sell the message that gender makes no difference, we risk isolating people when they experience challenges...
"... we risk them thinking it’s only them facing issues and that they are not ‘cut out’ for a career in the industry."
Secondly, we must work tirelessly to help employers consider their organisation’s working practices to help them to create workplaces which are inclusive and accepting of people from all backgrounds. There are a multitude of tools, support networks and training opportunities available to support individuals and organisations. Understand the issues which are relevant to your business and identify the support system which will help you to address that need and embrace it.
Anyone and everyone should have the opportunity to work in the construction industry should they wish to. As an industry, we’re not in a position to turn people away or indicate that their face doesn’t fit.
"We must work together to create an industry where people feel supported and valued."
Then we need to talk about it, post about it on LinkedIn, tweet about it, share images and stories to influence and support people, raise it in the board room, and shout about it from the rooftops and the tower cranes.
"As an industry, there are enough of us to demand this change and enough of us to make it happen."