International Women’s Day not only presents the ideal opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the advancements of existing women in our industry, but to turn our attention to the future construction workforce. A survey conducted by housebuilder Keepmoat found that only 13% of women aged 16-25 would consider a career in construction. With the industry still in the grips of a chronic skills shortage, which is set to worsen over time as an estimated 387,000 construction workers will retire by 2026, it has never been more important to attract young talent, regardless of gender.
To do this, we must change the traditional perceptions of construction as male-dominated and old-fashioned, showcasing the multiple, dynamic opportunities available to young women looking for a bright and rewarding career. An effective way to do this is to champion existing role models, such as Rebecca Galvin, who heads up our technical design team over in Ireland. In our interview, she explains her career and who has inspired her to go for her innovative role.
Rebecca Galvin – Design Manager (Engineering)
What was your career path into your current role and what inspired you to go for it?
I have always had a keen interest in buildings and, following the completion of my degree in Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at Trinity College Dublin, I moved to the UK to take up a role as a Structural Engineer within the Product Development team. This provided me with an in-depth knowledge of our products and gave me exposure to the Technical Teams across the Kingspan Insulated Panels Division. I was then afforded the opportunity to move back to Ireland to take up my current position as Design Manager (Engineering), where I head up the Technical Team there.
How has the position of women changed within construction over your time in the industry?
Women are now actively encouraged to take up roles within the construction industry through initiatives in schools. I have seen this filter through to the universities. I have recently completed my MEngSc in Structural Engineering at UCD and there was a much higher proportion of women in the Engineering class than there was in my Undergraduate Engineering class 10 years ago. Additionally, my role involves working with professionals in Engineering and Architecture practices and, in recent years, I have seen an increase in the number of women working in these practices.
What advantages would gender equality bring to the industry?
It would bring new ideas and a different viewpoint, something I believe is key to creating an effective team at every level. Gender balance in a work environment changes the dynamic and can lead to more informed decision making.
What advice would you give to a woman looking to start a career in your industry?
Don’t let gender stereotypes hold you back and stop you from reaching your full potential. Show initiative and get involved, don’t always wait to be asked.
Who inspires you?
I was given Sheryl Sandberg’s book when I graduated from College. ‘Lean In’ contains valuable advice for women and has become a great reference for me throughout my career. As she says, “if more women are in leadership roles, we’ll stop assuming they shouldn’t be” and Sheryl has certainly led by example. I think we all need a reminder to ‘sit at the table’.