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Women’s history in construction

You might be shocked by all these ‘new women’ who want to take up a career in construction, but we’re here to tell you that women have already been causing an absolute storm in the industry for centuries. 

Women working in construction roles can be seen as far back as the mediaeval times! Sure, they might not have been the skilled tradeswomen we have today, but during this time women would often work on stone and wood structures. But even back then they were paid a disproportionately smaller wage than their male counterparts. Doesn’t that just highlight how archaic that idea is!? 

Records of women in construction seemed to reduce after this, to then pick up again in the industrial revolution – it’s documented that in 1851, 1000 women were working in the building and construction industry! This is the time when women were able to move away from unskilled labour and individuals started making their mark on the industry. Ethel Charles became the first woman to be accepted into the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1898.

During World War 2, as men went to fight, women all over the country stepped up and took on a huge multitude of roles in construction such as welders, crane operators, mechanics, electrical engineers, and more, proving that they’re more than capable of doing ‘men’s work’. You want proof? Waterloo Bridge. Yep, that’s right. London’s Waterloo Bridge was built mostly by women during WW2, which is why some people may refer to it as ‘Ladies Bridge’, although this seems a bit patronising really, doesn’t it?

And as for today? Well, there are many incredible women in the construction industry. A shining example is Roman Agrawal, a structural engineer who has worked on some iconic projects, one of which being the Shard. Not only this, but she’s even written books detailing the stories behind some of our best known buildings.

So, women in construction is no new fad, it’s no trend, it’s been around for a while and there’s no chance of that changing anytime soon. So why are we still so surprised when women announce they work in construction? And why are these women still facing prejudice on the daily? Whilst these women are remarkable for staring this prejudice right in the face, we’re striving for the day when people won’t bat an eyelid at a woman in a hard hat.