International Women’s Day 2020: Rachael
by Rachael Keeble
Someone asked me last week what International Women’s Day means to me. Honestly I have mixed emotions about it. I’m inspired by the profiles of amazing women doing fantastic work. I’m relieved to see the balance of gender discourse flipped on its head for a day. I’m proud of the men that champion brilliant women. But I’m also frustrated that International Women’s Day has to exist at all.
And yet it is so needed. In the construction industry, women are underrepresented in almost every area, but even more so the further down the supply chain you go. The reason I’m frustrated is because in the rest of my life I’m not that used to thinking about my gender at all.
I’m lucky to have grown up in a power house of women. My mum and my sisters are some of the most inspiring people in my life – my dad too who has only ever encouraged and supported us in whatever we wanted to be and do. I had some amazing female role models at school and have continued to fill my adult life with women I am proud of, and in awe of. My Undergraduate and Masters degrees were in History and English Literature, female dominated courses and being musical, I have always been surrounded by creative men and women alike. For me it was only really when I joined the construction industry (and undertook my Masters in Construction Management) that I suddenly became more acutely aware of my gender.
It’s the daily little things that make the difference. Having to carry my own site boots around all day because generally construction sites don’t have my size. Having to take a deep breath every time anyone writes a letter addressed to me that starts “Dear Sirs”. Hiding any indication of an emotional response to a difficult meeting. Having to trek around site to find the magic person who holds the key to the single female loo…!
And yet things are continually getting better and International Women’s Day does remind me of that. Representation of all marginalised groups is becoming slowly larger in the industry, and LinkedIn on and around International Women’s Day is a testament to this as individual female perspectives are bought into the main arena.
I myself have managed to find my own path, working for a company where I can authentically be me – where I don’t have to worry about my gender holding me back and am able to pursue my work with encouragement and acceptance. Joining 3PM in January 2019 provided the trifecta; in the work we do, the Clients we work with and the cultural fit with my colleagues, leading to exciting and innovative results.
I am also part of creating change in other ways. Last year I was elected onto the CIOB London Hub (where I am the only female representative) working with a body of amazing individuals who are championing the change they want to see in the industry. This has opened up other doors where my view counts and I can help make things better for others; in February 2020 I represented the CIOB at the House of Parliament in the latest parliamentary review and I am currently collaborating on an initiative to promote equality and diversity within the industry and to encourage the next generation to consider a career in construction. My work with the CIOB has only really just begun but I am excited to get more involved and help promote positive change in the industry.
So on this International Women’s Day, whilst I acknowledge that there is still more work to be done to make the industry more diverse and representative, I am also hopeful and proud. Hopeful for a future where equal representation is the norm and where men and women alike inspire the next generation. Proud to be working with 3PM, the CIOB and a host of Clients and industry professionals who are embracing and championing this change, working towards a future where diversity is celebrated every day.