Insight

‘Gender roles are still prevalent in construction’

4 June 2019

Janet Osei-Berchie on how being a woman from a BAME background affects her work in the construction industry.

What is a typical day in your job?

I am not a morning person so my day usually starts with a moody “good morning” to my team. My main tasks throughout the day revolve around addressing a variety of site queries from site managers and subcontractors on design-related issues, providing further clarity on details, drawings and working with the site team to find suitable solutions to any issues.

Tell us about your experience as a young, black woman in the industry?

I have had both positive and negative experiences. I have had moments when I’ve realised, while in a meeting, that I was the only female in the room and the only person from a BAME background.

Gender roles are still prevalent. On site, operatives/visitors assumed, as a woman, that I was an administrator rather than part of the managerial team. I find myself having to be more assertive in certain situations.

Positively, I have learnt that there is an abundance of opportunities for women from a BAME background in the industry. In my current position I feel greatly supported by my directors and team to progress to the best I can be, regardless of my gender.

I came into the industry with mixed expectations – both negative and positive – and these have provided me with motivation to work harder for myself and for whom I feel I represent. I want to pave the way, promote and encourage more females and individuals from BAME backgrounds to get into the industry.

Is the industry doing enough for diversity and inclusion?

Representation is a word that is used a lot when talking about diversity, but it really matters in influencing young people to consider construction as a career. As an industry, we need to ensure we are not just filling the “quota”; it’s not enough to just tick boxes.

When working in neighbourhoods that have a high majority of BAME individuals, our workforce and managers should reflect this. This will not only help when working with local communities but will show young people in these neighbourhoods the possibilities within construction and if they saw individuals from BAME backgrounds succeeding, it would become a more attractive career path.

Comments

"When working in neighbourhoods that have a high majority of BAME individuals, our workforce and managers should reflect this."

Would you write:

"When working in neighborhoods that have a high majority of White individuals, our workforce and managers should reflect this"?

As for finding yourself the only individual with a BAME background in the room, I often have the same experience where I find I'm the only white guy in the room. It must be something to do with working in a South Asian country?

Do you think your working in a country where the majority of people still would be classed as white, might similarly have something to do with your experience?

John Smith, 9 June 2019

As a business leader in Construction it is fantastic to see Janet providing a really positive role model for women and individuals with a BAME background. Women and BAME individuals are woefully underrepresented in the industry particular at senior levels, as are LGBT individuals. The statistics are clear. Our industry can not afford to ignore talent from diverse backgrounds. Getting it right will not be easy and there are many hurdles to overcome but we don’t have a choice if we want to thrive in the future. Janet - you are an inspiration. Well done.

Andrew Osborne , 11 June 2019

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