22nd February 2019 — Around 80 girls from schools as far afield as Huntly and Edinburgh took take part in Aberdeen's first Women in Architecture and Construction Conference, which was organised by St Margaret’s in collaboration with the Robert Gordon University’s School of Architecture and Built Environment.
The second and third year pupils from Dyce, Cults, Bucksburn, Mackie and Westhill academies, The Gordon Schools, Huntly, and Mary Erskine School in Edinburgh took part in the day-long programme of interactive workshops, team challenges and hands-on activities, which was delivered by a team of academics from RGU.
St Margaret’s head teacher Anna Tomlinson said that the aim of the conference was to break down some of the barriers which prevent girls from considering a career in architecture or construction, both traditionally male-dominated areas.
“We were very excited to be able to offer this Women in Architecture and Construction event alongside Dr Marianthi Leon, and her wider team of fellow academics,” she said.
“As the only girls’ school in Aberdeen, we have long been committed to eradicating gender stereotype around subject and career choice. We consider ourselves exceptionally fortunate to have two world-class universities on our doorstep, both of which provide a diverse range of degree courses for those attracted to a STEM career.”
Dr Marianthi Leon, Senior Lecturer and Course Leader at Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and the Built Environment, said that the construction industry has faced a skills shortage for a number of years, with recent reports highlighting that women make up just 12% of the workforce.
The demand for talent, meanwhile, is currently at an all-time high, and business leaders in the architecture, construction, surveying, engineering and rail industries are enhancing their workforce to keep ahead of some of the largest projects seen in recent times.
She said: “Construction is an industry that requires many different skills and abilities. To achieve high levels of performance it is important to employ people from different backgrounds, with different experiences and a variety of capabilities. There is a pressing need to do more to encourage a commitment to gender diversity in the workplace and thus attract more women into the industry and enable a smoother path to senior leadership.
“Failing to promote women to leadership positions wastes the valuable contribution that women make to the built environment world and the economy as there is evidence that female representation improves both company performance, collaboration and ethical behaviour. With women comprising such a small percentage of the directly employed construction workforce it is essential to support women to aim for the top jobs in architecture and construction.
“Against this backdrop there has never been a better time for talented young women to enter the architecture and construction arena and this event gave pupils an opportunity to explore what a career in this field may entail.”
St Margaret’s has built a reputation for organising such events in recent years with its Women in Business and Women in Engineering conferences, the latter of which attracted delegates from schools throughout the UK.