Even in the 21st Century, architecture and construction practices are dominated by men, however, things are changing. UCAS data reveals that more women than men enrolled on architecture courses in Autumn 2021. This is the first time that this has occurred and we believe it is something to be celebrated.

If you are wondering why Exterior Solutions Ltd is championing gender balance, you might like to know that our team includes two generations of women. Many clients are initially surprised to discover that we are headed up by a female MD. The team also includes Lana Harrison’s sister and mother.

Women in Construction Professions

The start of March is marked by Women in Construction week. To recognise this, we would love to encourage other women with an interest in construction to see this as a valid and viable career choice. We are certainly proud of our work and our achievements as the manufacturer and supplier of Shou Sugi Ban®, the market leader in charred timber cladding.

We know some of the challenges of operating in a male-dominated industry. We also know that women can be highly successful in construction professions.

This doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the men in our team; without them, we wouldn’t have a successful business. It is all about hiring people with the right skills, strengths and attitude, rather than gender.


Support for Women in Construction

Women working in architecture and construction trades is nothing new. In 1953, a group of female professionals in America joined forces to form the Women in Construction of Fort Worth organisation. They collaborated to offer each other support, with one of the founders, Alice Ashley, describing them as “women with electricity in our veins, cement dust in our shoes and sawdust in our minds”.

This group has now become a global entity, renamed the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). With global branches, NAWIC continues to support and champion greater gender balance.

Between 1981 and 1994, another collective of women in architecture, design and building was formed, Matrix. Their focus was empowering women from all cultural backgrounds to be involved in the creation of spaces.

Part W is now leading the way in education, support and inclusivity. One project is the creation of a city map, showcasing 20 women-led London buildings. It is hoped that this will inspire more women into the profession.

The Architects Registration Board (ARB) reports that women currently account for 29.6% of the qualified architects that enter the profession. Go Construct data suggests 14% of construction workers are women, although 37% of Higher Education recruits are now female. We’d love to see these percentages continue to grow.

RIBA Award for Architecture

Part W have also raised the fact that in its 172-year history, the RIBA Stirling Prize has rarely featured women in the shortlist. The RIBA Gold Award has been won by Zaha Hadid, but Part W argue that others deserve recognition for their contribution to architecture*. These include Yasmeen Lari, for her work on developing environmentally-resilient buildings and Kate Macintosh, social housing champion.

In 2021, Grafton Architects; Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara won the RIBA Stirling Prize for Kingston University. Will we see a more representative balance in the 2022 RIBA Awards?


Working with Female Architects

In our previous article, we raised the fact that timber construction is seeing a revival across the UK. The aesthetic appeal, natural insulating properties and sustainability of quality timber cladding is indisputable and timber is seen as a means of achieving energy-efficient buildings.

Our premium Shou Sugi Ban® charred timber range has been in demand and Exterior Solutions Ltd has had the pleasure of liaising with more female architects than ever before. To give a few examples, we are currently working with Alice Thompson of Westminster-based, Mata Architects on an exciting new project. Discussions are also underway with prospect Clear Architects, set up by Melanie Clear, a specialist in residential design.

It has been a delight to supply charred timber to Zoe Little, co-founder of Koto Cabins. She and her business partners create Nordic-inspired small buildings. We have also collaborated with Elizabeth Assaf of Urban Doors on several projects, including the finishing touches to an award-winning property.

These a just a taste of the fantastic female talent that has infiltrated and excelled in a male-dominated industry. We look forward to working with many more in the coming years.

Considering a career in construction or architecture?

If you are considering a career in construction or architecture, these organisations offer support, resources and information:

Women in Construction – https://www.women-into-construction.org/

Women in Architecture – https://www.wia-uk.org/

Construction Youth Trust – https://www.constructionyouth.org.uk/women-construction

Go Construct – https://www.goconstruct.org/why-choose-construction/diversity-in-construction/women-in-construction/