Despite positive advances in recent years, it has been well-documented that women remain under-represented in the construction industry. In light of this, we recently caught up with our Associate Director of Marketing, Kate Prater, to discuss her experiences of working within an industry traditionally dominated by men.
What was your first role in construction?
“Having finished university, the opportunity arose to join my father’s business. I was initially brought in on a temporary maternity contract within the sales and marketing team – the rest, they say, is history!”
Why did you choose construction as a career?
“At the time of joining Prater, I assumed it would be a temporary role until I found something more permanent, but as I became more involved in the business and started attending site meetings and learning about all the interesting and diverse projects, I got the buzz! I was fascinated by the industry and loved that no two days were the same. I was also lucky enough to learn about the different areas of the business during the start of my career and sought opportunities to increase my knowledge of the industry. I felt that this was invaluable in supporting my role within the sales and marketing team.”
What do you feel is the biggest challenge of being a woman working within construction?
“It is still very much a male-dominated industry, and I think that this in itself is a big challenge. I believe the figure of the number of women within the current workforce is around 11%; so the perception of construction needs to move away from the industry of the past, to make it easier for women to progress and succeed today.”
Do you feel that the industry is opening up more to women?
“Yes, definitely. During my 25+ years in the industry, I’ve been encouraged by the number of women I’ve seen entering the industry. Today when you go out on site, you see an increasing number of women, all in different roles, from machine operators to engineers, which a complete contrast to when I first went out to meetings on site – when I was nearly always the only woman there. At Prater, we are also seeing a good number of women holding management roles such as Project Managers, Quantity Surveyors and Designers which is encouraging both for the business and for the industry as a whole.”
How can the industry be more inclusive for women?
“I think it’s crucial for the industry to raise awareness of construction as a career option for women and highlight role models who have been successful in their careers. Vacancies should also be advertised where they are likely to be seen by a more diverse audience. Social media provides a fantastic opportunity for us to do this.”
Would you recommend a career in construction to women? Why?
“Yes, 100% and there is a wide range of roles available. Whether you’re interested in sales, marketing, estimating, design, engineering, there is a role for you. It is a fantastic industry to gain a wide breadth of experience and learn a lot of new skills.”
If there was one piece of advice that you could pass onto a woman starting in construction, what would it be?
“My advice would be to keep an open mind about the role that you ultimately want and concentrate on gaining as much experience as possible, embracing every opportunity you can. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to develop your knowledge and attend site visits to gain first-hand experience – even if you don’t see yourself eventually working on site, there is nothing more valuable than this for developing your skill set. There is a huge skills shortage in our industry at the moment and this gives women a huge opportunity. The world truly is your oyster, if you want it to be.”