Blog: Choosing to Challenge

Blog: Choosing to Challenge

Marketing & Business Development Manager, Samantha Jevons reflects on International Women’s Day 2021 and what that means to her in her latest blog.

#ChooseToChallenge is the 2021 theme for International Women’s Day on 8 March.

“A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions…”

It made me start to think about how many of my contemporaries will choose to challenge and whether I should take up the mantra.

What are my thoughts?

It’s almost 100 years since women finally achieved equal voting rights and we have come a long way since then.  A long way since the 1980s, when my mum failed to secure a job following an interview because her prospective employer told her they were worried about her taking time off to care for her young children.  My generation has experienced the greatest level of equality of opportunity in terms of education and career development.  Is there still a need to challenge?

Yet within the construction industry, I am still in a minority with women only accounting for 12.5% of the industry in the UK (according to the CIOB in 2019).   There are even fewer women in senior positions.   As part of my role, I regularly meet new people and on more than one occasion, a male colleague accompanying me has felt the need to refer to my qualifications and experience to our business associates (so that I will be taken more seriously? Seen more as a force to be reckoned with?).

I have worked with lots of talented, high achieving women over the past 20 years in this industry (too many to name-check although I’d like to – I’ll tag as many as I can in this post), yet many have not reached the same level of seniority as their male counterparts.  Is it a lack of confidence? Lack of encouragement? Lack of mentoring opportunities? Lack of senior women as role models?  I suspect it is a combination of all of these and more.

Women are far more likely to take part-time and flexible working options if they become a parent than men.  Is it because women are still often the primary carer for their children?  Or is it that the gender pay gap means that many women earn less than their partners and it makes more economic sense for a woman to reduce her hours (and therefore her opportunities)?  A lot of the women in my network (who are also parents) have expressed how difficult they have found the past year working from home and homeschooling and they appear to have been hit harder than many of the men I know.  Cultural shifts towards shared parental leave and a more flexible approach to working (accelerated no doubt by the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021) can only help working parents balance work and family life.

Recently Bowman Riley signed up to the RIBA Inclusion Charter to acknowledge the need for greater inclusion in the architecture profession and wider construction industry.   Inclusion is about creating a culture where everyone can thrive and reach their potential.

 What are my actions for 2021?

 I will

  • write a blog to raise awareness and to influence others or at least spark a conversation (here it is)
  • work with Colin Briggs, a colleague I respect and admire to look at practical steps we can take within our organisation to seek greater inclusivity.
  • continue to be an active member of Women in Property and carry on mentoring a young development surveyor with great potential.
  • take the opportunity to recognise and celebrate other women’s achievements.
  • challenge unconscious bias and stereotyping.
  • continue to bring my young son up to be kind and treat everyone as he would like to be treated.

Looks like I have chosen to challenge!

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