Eleni Papari. Civil Engineer N.T.U.A., M.B.A.

QUESTION: How long have you been working in the building sector (or dealing with the topic of women in construction) and what are your main professional tasks?

ANSWER: 12 years. My main professional tasks relate to the construction management / construction consultancy discipline in both the tender and the construction / realization phase.

QUESTION: How do you view the current situation of women in the construction sector?

ANSWER: In Greece, there are many women in various positions in the construction industry from engineering, procurement, project management, financing, and advisory in both the public and private sectors. Specialties that were traditionally considered in the past as male, -mechanical engineers, chemical engineers etc.-, seem to attract the interest of women more than other fields which attracted women in the past such as architects, civil engineers, etc. But there is a gap regarding women’s representation in the blue-collar workforce and we don’t see women in manual labor at construction sites.

QUESTION: What do you think is the reason for this?

ANSWER: The sector is still male-dominant, and women are still facing sexism and stereotypical attitudes in their work and life.

QUESTION: To what extent is this already a change from the past?

ANSWER: Despite all meaningful advances in gender equality in the country, there is still a gender gap in certain occupations. More and more women chose studies in Architecture and STEM fields, but they are not progressing in their professional journey and still remain low-income.

QUESTION: The construction industry is still a male domain. What measures can be taken to significantly increase the proportion of women in the near future?

ANSWER: The industry should adopt a different model that ‘’business as usual’’ and ensure that keeps and attract the best and brightest people regardless of gender. But the sector is starting from a low base.  We must take positive steps to ensure that we are appropriately targeting our recruitment materials, tackling unconscious bias, highlighting role models, celebrating the achievements of women, and of course, maintaining zero tolerance to sexism, bullying, and discrimination.

QUESTION: What does this mean for companies (employer branding) and their recruitment strategies?

ANSWER: Companies should focus on attracting and keeping a diversity of people and have a culture of equality, diversity, and inclusion.

QUESTION: What role do trainers in vocational training centers play in this?

ANSWER: VET should focus not only on professional qualifications but also on social and emotional ones. They play an important role in developing learners’ skillsets in line with labor market needs, by teaching and training not only occupational skills but also skills, such as verbal communication, conflict resolution, cooperation, and establishing and maintaining positive relationships.

QUESTION: What potential do digitalization and green technologies offer in this context?

ANSWER: The world is changing fast. For past years, digital transformation has been a trend in almost every industry, bringing numerous benefits. However, as one of the world’s largest and most traditional industries, construction is one of the least digitized sectors.

Digital transformation requires many changes, changing the relation between upstream and downstream of the industry chain, changing the whole process collaborative relations in the project, and changing the production relations within the organization.

QUESTION: What advantages do you see in a higher number of women in construction professions?

ANSWER: It makes an organization a better, place to work, for all employees, more job satisfaction, more organizational dedication, more meaningful work, and less burnout.  Today, employees with female managers state that female managers supported and helped them through the last two years of the Covid pandemic. They offer fresh perspectives from their lived experiences, and teams benefit from the different points of view, new approaches, and being pushed to walk in someone else’s shoes.

QUESTION: What advice would you give to young women considering a career in construction?

ANSWER: One of the main reasons why women should join the construction field is that the industry simply needs more workers in general! But apart from this general fact, the industry provides a lot of benefits such as a supportive community of female colleagues, opportunities for leadership positions, better communication, and efficient analytical thinking. Women at work bring qualities and improve the working culture, they are hard-working, motivated, and have incredibly high standards. They are inspirational leaders, more generous and fairer to their employees. Their attitude can inspire and motivate others, to do the same and follow them.