Today, Tuesday 8th March 2022, marks International Women’s Day.

People - Meet the Team - Laylee Eftekhar Portrait Photo

To mark International Women’s Day this year, we hear from Bachy Soletanche Senior Contracts Engineer and Vice Chair of the FPS Early Careers Group, Laylee Eftekhar, on the dos and don’ts of encouraging a more diverse industry.

When it comes to diversity in the construction industry, although having more female representation is important, setting targets for this during recruitment isn’t necessarily the correct way to go about it. I think this approach encourages positive discrimination and I’m sure most women wouldn’t want to think that they only got their job because of their gender. This is going to one extreme and doesn’t actually get to the root of why there is a lack of diversity in the industry, particularly why more young women aren’t choosing STEM subjects and career paths.

Instead, more needs to be done with encouraging women into the industry at earlier stages, i.e., through education, because why would a young girl aspire to work in construction if she’s never been shown that it’s a possibility? Young people need more exposure to both the industry and the women within it. We need to be promoting the more male-dominated positions to young women, such as site-based and operative roles, to show them how rewarding these jobs can be. But at the same time, they need to know that a career in construction doesn’t just look like hard hats and heavy manual labour. There are so many opportunities beyond that, which require a whole breadth of skills, from geotechnical designers and project managers to estimators and quantity surveyors.

We need a lot more engagement like this, whether that’s volunteering your time to contribute to the ECG or showing young people the benefits of a career in engineering, we can all do our bit to make the industry a more inclusive and representative place to work.

In addition to attracting more women, I believe encouraging individuals of all backgrounds, sexualities and ethnicities into the industry should also be at the forefront. Getting a more gender-balanced industry is important, yes, but there is also a lack of diversity across many of these other areas, which is equally as important for creating an innovative, inclusive and happy workplace.

There may be many reasons for a lack of diversity, a lot of which go back to the idea of a scarcity of role models for young people. Another is that construction is sometimes perceived as being a demanding industry when it comes to working hours, working conditions and generally a work-life balance. This can be true for some roles, and we should be transparent about that, but we should share the benefits that these roles offer too. We also need to advertise the myriad of jobs in construction that do offer a lot of flexibility and work-life balance as this misrepresentation may be a key factor in the shortage of people in the industry, not only women.

Alongside this, I think we need to break the stereotype that there is a lot of gender bias and inequality within the sector. Attitudes have progressed vastly in the past couple of years and the sector is much more inclusive than it once was. Fortunately, I’ve had a very positive experience, where I’ve felt there has been a level playing field for everyone and I’ve found the sector to be a very inclusive place to work.

Although there have been times within my early career when I’ve thought that as a woman, I have had to do more to prove my capabilities, it has become clear that you are judged a lot more on your performance than on your gender. When you do your job well and are not afraid to voice your thoughts and challenge your peers, which should always be the case, you quickly gain respect from others.

I understand that this is unfortunately not always the narrative and there is still room for improvement in some areas, but I think it’s important to show that things are improving and there are a lot of companies out there ready to welcome young people of all genders, sexualities, disabilities, religions and ethnicities.

There may be many reasons for a lack of diversity, a lot of which go back to the idea of a scarcity of role models for young people. Another is that construction is sometimes perceived as being a demanding industry when it comes to working hours, working conditions and generally a work-life balance.

Through my role as Vice Chair of the Federation of Piling Specialists’ (FPS) Early Careers Group (ECG), I’m helping to inspire younger generations to study STEM subjects and consider a career in the engineering industry. We do this through educational webinars and in-person presentations at places such as London Southbank University. Some of our upcoming visits include ArcelorMittal Construction Solutions’ fabrication yard and Everton Football Stadium.

We need a lot more engagement like this, whether that’s volunteering your time to contribute to the ECG or showing young people the benefits of a career in engineering, we can all do our bit to make the industry a more inclusive and representative place to work.

Insights - International Women's Day 2022 - BreaktheBias cards
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