Women in construction
Thinking about career choices can be both exciting and daunting. When we are children many of us dream freely and believe we can become anything we want. But somewhere along the line as adults it is easy to adopt a different view. We at MAINTENANT want to harbour the young person’s feeling of excitement, curiosity, confidence, and be a source of inspiration in career choices.
Construction is a male dominated field, but we are seeing a slow but steady movement to attract more women to this multifaceted and vibrant field. If you would not fancy to put on a construction helmet and dungarees, there are many other ways for women to be involved in the exciting field of construction. Rumour has it, being a woman in this field may have its advantages.
Zainab Dangana, one of MAINTENANT’s STEAM-ambassadors, knows first hand about the thrills, challenges and rewards of forging her dream career within construction, first as an architect in Nigeria, India, US and the UK, and now as a sustainable technology services manager in the UK construction, development and property services company the Wates Group.
“As a child I loved drawing. Later I wanted to take my creative ability to the next level, and that is how I got into designing. My parents saw construction as a place where I could be a designer,” says Zainab.
Finding inspiration in people walking before you can be the make-or-break when deciding upon a career in any field. As a 17-year old, Zainab was inspired by her female friends who studied architecture. They were a bit older and became mentors for Zainab in a sense, she saw what they did, and knew what to expect. “I had an idea of what I wanted, because of what they did,” she says.
Being an architect meant a lot of time sitting at the drawing table. After some time working in the US and then the UK, Zainab felt it was time for a change. “It got to a point where I was not happy sitting in a corner quietly doing my work. I had this itch in me,” she says. “I wanted to make an impact.” So she started studying for a PhD in construction management at Plymouth University. She graduated with a distinction, and went from the female dominated workplaces she had been at as an architect, to the male dominated field of construction.
Environmental sustainability was still a new concept within construction, but it was becoming increasingly important, and Zainab had her eyes set on change. The Wates group, which had sponsored her PhD, was the perfect match. She guides clients in becoming more sustainable by using sustainable products, which range from building material to which water-saving toilets to install. It can also be solutions to reduce the use of energy and buying sustainable furniture for the offices. Zainab informs the clients of the sustainable solutions that are out there, so key decision makers and suppliers, many times previously unknown to Zainab’s clients, can connect.
“The best part of my job is making a positive impact on the environment,” says Zainab without hesitation. “I get to experience the results first hand. One of my suppliers developed their sustainability products at home in the garage, and I introduced them to one of my clients who then took the products and made them global.” This wider aspect of sustainability strikes a chord with Zainab, in terms of helping communities grow, spreading awareness and information.
There still may not be a lot of women in construction, but there are a lot of women in the sustainability roles. That is one way to get into construction without being on the construction sites, and make an impact with what you believe in.
“The biggest challenge is to change people’s attitude, because people like what they are doing. That’s why my approach to working with people is engaging with them, having workshops, educating them. Otherwise the products I believe in may not get the attention they deserve.”
Zainab advices young people looking to make a career choice to be open minded, because there are many options within the field of construction. She wants to reach out to younger girls in primary schools. “Because they make up their minds about this being a male dominated industry, and we need to change that. By the time they are in secondary school it is harder to change their mindset.” Zainab emphasises is important for people making career choices that they can have transferable skills that can make them a perfect match for the construction industry, even though you don’t have any prior knowledge of construction.
Like us at MAINTENANT, Zainab believes science is of utmost importance, “because all technology and the underlying set of knowledge is science. Most of our energy products are based on physics and how energy flows,” says Zainab. The material composition and the chemical reactions in the material and its the outcome, are also a major part of sustainability and construction, according to Zainab. And that opens yet another way to get into construction.