Austin-Smith:Lord join drive to encourage female students into Architecture and Construction on International Women’s Day

Austin-Smith:Lord join drive to encourage female students into Architecture and Construction on International Women’s Day

In the 2017 Women in Architecture Survey, 60% of women said they did not believe the building industry has fully accepted their authority as architects and the same percentage said that having children had a detrimental effect on their career trajectory. If we turn our focus to young women, a recent study commissioned by Redrow revealed that just 16% of young women questioned said a career in construction was a possibility for them.

These are alarming statistics and as a practice we are committed to raising awareness of the wide ranging opportunities within the industry and to ensuring absolute equality of progression and reward. Women at Austin-Smith:Lord make up 37% of the workforce which is higher than the industry average reported in RIBA’s 2016 Benchmarking report and we are pleased to see this ratio increasing year on year.

Indeed, within the practice we are experiencing something of a natural equalisation in gender ratio through recruitment and progression based very simply upon talent and merit which, in isolation, is very encouraging. Only last night we attended an international awards evening for the construction industry but, whilst the achievements of the schemes on show were admirable, the under-representation of women was equally shocking and a stark reminder of how much is still to be done.

Today we celebrate diversity at our practice and are pleased to be contributing to Bouygues’s International Women’s Day Careers Fair for Girls in Pembrokeshire alongside Morganstone, Gleeds, WRW, Pembrokeshire County Council and Pembroke College.

The event, set up by Bouygues and in partnership with BITC Cymru, is being held throughout the day (8th March) at the Bridge innovation Centre in Pembrokeshire and is providing female students aged 14-19 with the opportunity to learn more about the different career options available to them in construction as well as to hear from different key note speakers across a programme of seminars throughout the day covering topics including gender equality and the pay gap.

Members of the Austin-Smith:Lord Cardiff team, Emily Harper Part II Architectural Assistant and Efa Lois Thomas Part I Architectural Assistant, are attending the day with an information stall to share knowledge with the students about the routes into architecture as a career.

careers fair, Austin-Smith:Lord,
Emily and Efa at the Bouygues careers fair

Having reflected on how she might support young women to consider a career in architecture Efa Lois shares the story of how she found her way into architecture.

I’m really excited to be attending Bouygues career fair as I am hopeful I can spread the word to young women about the fantastic benefits and rewards they can expect from working in the industry. When I was very young, I used to make my parents print off sheets upon sheets of fashion design templates, and I filled folders with my designs. I think the idea of applying design and aesthetics to clothing and accessories really appealed to me, even at an early age, but I was also fascinated by physics and the science of what surrounded me. When I discovered Architecture, I found that it included elements of all my interests, and more!

Not long ago, Efa won the National Eisteddfod Architecture Scholarship 2016, the University of Liverpool John Ranking Sketch Scheme prize, presented a slot in the Royal Society of Architects in Wales’ Annual Conference 2016, and has recently submitted an article for Touchstone Architecture Magazine.

Emily shares how more about how she discovered her passion for Architecture. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was at school, I just chose subjects I enjoyed which included Art, Maths and Psychology. It wasn’t until I had to make a decision about university courses that I realised I had inadvertently set myself up for Architecture. It was the only thing that made sense; it satiated both my creative and my practical side all at once. Nothing else would do and I enjoyed my degree exceptionally.

“Throughout my degree I grew more confident in my ideas, took more risks in my projects, read more, drew more, learnt new skills, found work experience, took interest in things I never thought were relevant and realised that Architecture covers everything, I could direct it anyway I wanted. It is an all-encompassing subject and design isn’t even half of it.

To find out more about today’s career fair we spoke to Danielle Aberg, Community Engagement Officer from Bouygues; “We set up this event to expose, inspire and engage young women in the vast opportunities available to them in the STEM and construction sector. Currently women make up just 13% of the STEM industry and 0.2% of the trade industry which we’re working to support increases in.

Danielle continued; “We want to not only educate the students visiting today about their career options but also help them understand gender equality and the pay gap, engaging them in the politics and debate surrounding International Women’s Day. We’ve had fantastic feedback from teachers today already telling us that the students weren’t sure what to expect and whether it would be right for them but after just a few hours are now seeing how there are so many options within the sector that are exciting them for the future!”

We also caught up with Antonia John from Morganstone; “A recent CITB study reported that the Welsh construction sector is set to grow up to a third faster than the rest of the UK over the period between now and 2021 and there are targets in place to have women represented in the industry with a 1 in 4 ratio by that time. These are big goals and we are here to help young women see the opportunities available to them and inspire them to take action toward a rewarding career in construction in an environment where equal opportunities are prevalent. I think it’s been a fantastic day so far and we’re very pleased to be involved.”

Claire Grace from Gleeds told us; “We’re here to share the different routes available towards a career in construction as well as help the students understand more about the different stages of construction. So many young people typically perceive construction as design and trade only so it’s good to be here to expose other areas like pre-construction, on-site work and the endless jobs available in the sector.

Claire continued; “Gender equality is important to us at Gleeds and we’re proud that Nicola Jones, one of our Project Managers, is Chair of the Women In Property South Wales branch helping to enhance the profile of women in construction and property in Wales.”

Lastly, Louise Button from Chwarae Teg said; “As an organisation we support women right across Wales to progress into leadership and management roles. Construction is still a heavily male dominated industry so we’re here today to not only support young women in learning more about the sector but also to encourage businesses to attract, retain and progress female talent in their businesses. We’ve had an excellent day with the girls sharing the women that inspire them the most, it’s been great to see so many of them mention their mum while others answered with celebrities and symbols of political movement like Emma Watson, Adele, Malalala, J.K Rowling and Rosa Parks.”

architect, students
Milford Haven School students were pleased to have taken part in our quiz that showed them they have all the necessary skills to one day become an architect.

We’d love to hear what your business has been doing to support International Women’s Day. Please tweet us @AustinSmithLord including the hashtag #InternationalWomensDay to share your stories.