International Women's Day: Digital Construction

In recent years, global equality has made impressive strides but the battle is far from over. In digital construction and the wider industry, we have a duty to represent equality amongs what has historically been a male dominated industry.

Before I continue, I'd like to note that a white male writing about discrimination is never going to bode well amongst an entire audience. But I believe acknowledging these circumstances and using a platform to talk about what so many people don't conciously think about, speaks volumes around the subject and issue I believe we should all work together to tackle.

In all industries, there are tales of horrific mysognism, racism and discrimination of many other forms. Many of our senior colleagues today have fought their way through such abhorrent behaviours, none more so than one of Space Architect's Associate Architects. Originating from Asia, they studied and qualified as an architect in the UK before embarking on an illustrious career in many countries and now residing in the north east of England. 

With over 30 years practice in the industry, their experiences were an eye opening lesson about the ignorance carried amongst many employers she has encountered, right back to her first job interview. She said: "During a gap year, I was told I wouldn't get a job for two reasons. The first being, it was a waste of their time to train me if I wanted to return home after I graduated and secondly, because I was a small woman who would be bullied on site.

If a man made one thousand mistakes, I would probably never notice. But if a woman made just one, I wouldn't be able to let it go.

"But there is a memory I'll never forget. I had recently been hired by a firm in London in 1987, we had been invited out with the partners to welcome me to the firm and one of the partners told me: 'If a man made one thousand mistakes, I would probably never notice. But if a woman made just one, I wouldn't be able to let it go.' "

Although we would like to think that many of these attitudes have now left the industry, it would be naive to think that we are completely satisfied with equality within the industry. 

Hard working groups such as Women in BIM and the UK BIM Alliance have been leading the way in equality and opportunity. We're proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our industry colleagues until the ideology of inequalty, in all forms, is stamped out once and for all.

Last week's BIM Show Live showed that progress is being made within our industry. Many speakers such as Jay Zallan and chair Simon Rawlinson commented on how many more women were involved in comparison to previous years at the conference or other events in the industry. What stood out for me was not only seeing so many women attend but the platform they were given whilst there.

A huge triumph for women in the industry came prior to the conference at the 2019 BIM Awards as Rebecca De Cicco picked up the award for BIM Personality of the Year whilst the event itself allowed a lunchtime panel of women to take to the main stage and have their say in a Q&A discussion about our industry. 

Not only has BIM Show Live sought out the attention and helped to voice about our female colleagues currently in the industry but they are also looking to the future. The BIM Inspiration day inspired many younger students who we, and fellow sponsors of the event, hope will choose a career in our industry in years to come. 

One female student from Monkseaton Middle School told us: "I want to be an engineer, so this is really cool for me to see." 

Making positive impressions and experiences early on is key to driving equality forward in future generations, teaching assistant, Jen Brown, added: "The children are engaging really well with all the practical aspects of it.

"It definitely opens a lot of doors and opportunities for them. A lot of the girls are interested, too! It really has been a positive experience." 

It's important that we learn from the past and allow our future generations to set their own standards and take examples from the measures that are currently underway. But we must assess where we are currently at in order to make progress going forward. 

The most significant change I feel as a young woman is the attitude of everyone in the industry.

Claire Thornton, Information Manager at BIM Technologies said: “I have been involved in the construction industry for ten years and even in that short space of time the attitudes and incorporation of women across all aspects of the industry has changed in a massive way. Not only are there more women on construction sites, attending events and at the core of all types of construction projects – the most significant change I feel as a young woman is the attitude of everyone in the industry.

"The importance of diversity of all types and the differing views, ideas, experiences and mindsets this can bring is becoming a subject which is not only recognised and discussed but actioned and can be seen in all aspects of the work we do at BIM Technologies and in the industry as a whole.

"I truly believe that there is no difference between females and males in terms of skills and added values they bring to a project. It’s just a matter of encouraging women to start this kind of career by highlighting how rewarding a career in this industry can be, how every day is different, it’s dynamic, challenging and International Women’s Day and similar events are all part of that.”

Let us do more - let us do it first.

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