‘Gender roles are still prevalent in construction’
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.