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Women in construction education

Published on: 30 Jan 2009

The days of the dinosaurs that we faced when we came into industry at the end of the seventies are long gone. Thinking about education has changed.

Lots of students are positive about life in general in the college environment.

I have been involved in teaching for the past 10 years. Women teaching in further and higher education attract and retain large cohorts of female students, and once we have facilitated students through their education it’s up to industry to attract and retain them regardless of gender.

Gender is no longer the issue

From the university practitioner’s perspective, gender is no longer an issue. Classes are pretty much a 50:50 gender mix in architecture, construction and property.

The new issues emerging for many students are instead language skills, because they might have to go aboard to work, and keeping up their professional development.

Personally, I find that one of the real pleasures of teaching is watching former students develop as young professionals and following them through their careers to become leading lights or recognised industry practitioners.

I quietly wonder what influence I really had on their thinking during three developmental years. I made my decision 10 years ago to get back into education and do something positive.

Is it that courses are not attracting enough students, or perhaps that those who qualify choose to move out of the sector early on because of curious employment practices? The courses are heaving at my university, and we do our absolute best with just enough staff to cope; we have good completion and degree grade rates.

So the problem is not with us, I think – because women like me influence the generations coming through and into your businesses.

The majority of construction practitioners in a UK university at the moment are not doing the job for the salary – especially if you are a QS.

We work long hours with big groups of students, and it is shatteringly busy – by comparison, industrial life was always easier for me. I do this job for my students, and this feeds into industry.

The reality could simply be that everybody’s attitude to the way we work has changed. New graduates coming into the sector over the past 10 years, regardless of gender, understand that the industry’s culture is one of hard work –especially when the economy hardens or overheats.

It’s tough, and the students leaving this university department are prepared for that.

For many practitioners who cross over into academia, we are about transcending our need for money and security. We are about giving something back to the industry that has paid our mortgages for the past 20 or so years and we are especially about influencing the next generation that comes through so they can face their challenges earlier and more realistically – and perhaps remain in your businesses long enough to level up your gender profiles.

Jacqueline Pond is a senior lecturer in construction in the School of Architecture and the Built Environment at the University of Westminster.

For the full article read The hand that rocks the cradle published in Building.