There are 50 cranes on Dublin’s horizon line this week and I counted 11 from the window on the fourth floor of the Construction Industry Federation. So I’m thinking that the figures must be true.
It was a great start to a cold ‘n windy Monday morning meeting up with Dermot Carey at the CIF headquarters in Dublin. We were discussing the lack of women in the industry. The CIF is really enthusiastic about the prospect of an increase in the female presence on site. Realising that it’s not every woman’s cup of tea but looking at the fact that more than half the population right now is female, you have to wonder why the number of women is so exceptionally low.

In Ireland today less than 5 % of construction workers on-site are women and the amount of females in trades apprenticeships doesn’t even reach 1%. According to SOLAS only 34 of the current 10,000 apprenticeship placements are filled by women.

It’s not uncommon knowledge that women right now are a minority in construction, but we are behind many other places in the world. Statistics from the U.K, U.S.A, Germany and Australia all fall between 5% and 14%.

The news is, that there are a lot of women in Ireland who actually LOVE learning how to use construction tools, though there are psychological hurdles to overcome in every quarter, whether it be a cultivated lack of confidence that women experience, having had it drummed into them for an aeon that is not their domain to enter, and so perhaps they don’t give it a try, or that a lot of people simply don’t expect women to enter that sphere of work so the invite to do so is rare.

There is an age old myth that construction work requires brute strength rather than physical fitness. The majority of the time this is not true, and these days there are more and more legislative guidelines that recommend manual lifting limits. Working together in groups, or by using devices when moving heavy objects is common sense. There is also the point that strength and brawn are developed over time on the job by most new starters whether you are male or female. I am a small woman of 5 ft 5 and have had a fantastic time working in the industry.

U.K. recruitment company Randstad declares it can change its on-site female presence to a much improved 26% by 2020. With the national building industry forecast of a moderate growth of 4-5% between now and then, things are looking promising.This year in Ireland we have heard from the Construction Industry Federation, of an even stronger growth in the same period. They say that 76,000 new jobs will need to be filled within the next few years. In light of this, we are likely to experience more encouragement and support for women who are have an interest in learning and working in skilled trades…

I’ve been in conversation with some really interesting people from all over the country over the last couple of weeks: professional multi-skilled tradespeople, builders, foremen, business owners amongst others, who are really supportive of the idea of getting more women on the tools. And a number of whom mentioned that they always thought it was weird that there weren’t more women having a crack at it…….