Greater efforts must be made by parents, teachers and school guidance counsellors to encourage teenage girls to consider careers in the construction industry, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has said.
The CIF, which launched its Women in Construction Network on Tuesday, said women have a vital role to play in the Irish construction industry with an additional 112,000 workers needed in the coming years to meet the State’s housing needs.
However, the federation says that in order to attract woman into construction roles, society as a whole must move away from the perception of construction as a male occupation.
“Why can’t a woman drive a crane the same as a man,” asked CIF director of industrial relations Jean Winters. “It’s like any career. You need to work hard, you need a certain amount of luck and you need competence. These are all gender neutral issues.”
Ms Winters said the State education system must ensure all teenage girls have the opportunity to study subjects at school that provide a route into construction.
“If you look at a mixed secondary school the girls probably do have access to technical drawing and graphics but in an all-girls school, those subjects are not on offer,” she said.
“Society’s general point of view is that this is a male dominated industry - it’s heavy work, a lot of lifting and carrying, and therefore is more suited to a man because of the physicality. That is no longer the case. With new methods and technology, there’s no reason why women can’t do the same jobs as men in the industry.
“Some parents may not encourage their daughters to follow that career path and teachers and guidance counsellors may not realise the opportunities available to girls in the sector.”
Just 8 per cent of the estimated 150,000 people working in the Irish construction industry are female, with women holding jobs in engineering, architecture, quantity surveying, administration and health and safety, Ms Winters said.
“We want to see an increase in these roles but equally we want to see more women on sites and in apprenticeship systems to become electricians and plumbers.”
CIF president Dominic Doheny warned that young girls were still growing up with the belief that they are barred from the industry and committed to removing all barriers to women pursuing a career in construction.
“We need to work more closely with the education system to ensure that female students know that they are welcome in our industry and that they can build fantastic and fulfilling careers here.”
Mr Doheny called for a national awareness campaign supported by the Government to promote the industry among women.