Back in March this year Stirling City Heritage Trust and Developing the Young Workforce in Forth Valley organised an incredibly successful event for female pupils at Stirling Schools. Women in Construction brought together women from across the industry to inspire younger women in education to take up careers in construction.
One of those women, Sophia Mirashrafi, Digital Project Officer at Historic Environment Scotland, gave us her perspective on the day.
I am a Digital Project Officer employed at Historic Environment Scotland (HES) on the Digital Innovation and Learning team, based at the Engine Shed in Stirling. I’m currently working with the National Trust for Scotland in the digital documentation project taking place at Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House in Helensburgh.
Myself and my colleague, Bonnie Burton, the Digital Documentation Trainee at HES, were delighted to be able to participate in the Women in Construction event at Bannockburn High School. We took part in a panel of exceptional women (and one man!) who represented various branches of construction. It was such an excellent opportunity to showcase how many different paths there are to take into the industry.
We set up a small workshop where students could get a taste of the kinds of things Bonnie and I get to work with on a daily basis. This ranged from discussing terrestrial laser scanning and survey, to 3D printing and the ever-popular Virtual Reality; students had the opportunity to virtually visit Maeshowe tomb in Orkney with a VR headset.
These digital and innovative tools are becoming more and more commonplace in both the construction and heritage industries. Virtual reality, for instance, is being used by London Crossrail to allow engineers to virtually visit a building site. Digital technologies are also being used for health and safety and staff training in the industry. Right here in Scotland, the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre is leading the way in developing a Future Skills Strategy to boost innovation in the next generation of construction professionals.
Whilst it is vital that women can visualise themselves in any career so that they can then be inspired to pursue it, the tech and construction industries have historically been left wanting in terms of a gender-balanced workforce for young people to imagine themselves into.
Women have been barred either socially or culturally from these traditionally male-dominated fields for far too long. Events like the Women in Construction day at Bannockburn High School are a crucial step in showing women starting their careers that entering these industries is not only an available option for them, but one to get excited about.
It’s so important to me that these young women view joining these industries not as a brave or contrary break from a stereotype, but instead as moving toward a new normal in how these industries are represented and consequently perceived. For me, it’s not about becoming ‘one of the guys’, but instead about bringing unique, clever, and passionate young people in the construction and digital spheres – young people who just happen be women.