Emer Doyle. NZEB Trainer in High Performance Building Construction at MosArt/WWETB

QUESTION: Hello Emer Doyle from MosArt,  welcome & thanks for taking part in the interview.

ANSWER: I’m Emer from Co. Wexford. I was late into third level education. So, when I reared my family, I decided to go to college. So, I went to College in 2002.

I did an interior design course 1st and then I discovered through the interior design course that I could go on and do architectural technology in Wexford campus.
So because it was accessible, I said well, it’s only 20 minutes, half an hour in the road. So, I’ll chance that. So, I was doing the interior design and managing my cousins amateur design shop. But in the end I said no, I’m gonna stick with the architecture. I stuck with that for three years, and then decided, right I’ll do another year. So I did an honours degree, an add on year in sustainable architectural technology.
That was in 2009, and the bottom had fallen out of the construction industry, so I decided, I’m on the learning bandwagon, so I’m just gonna keep going. I did and I did the masters in UEL,  & CAT, that was Advanced Environment Energy Studies, did it by distance learning, got my thesis topic approved and then took six months out, so I could work on that. I graduated in 2012.

I was unemployed for a number of years, so I completed a Post Grad in DIT, Digital Analysis & Energy Retrofit for a year. Then in 2016 I got a job in a roofing company, so then I was taking time off that job to finish my obligations to the Architecture Foundation. So, then I kind of had to knock that on the head, which was a pity because it was really good.
I got the  job with the roofing company because they were looking for an architectural technologist for the detail and the first project I did was the Glucksman Library extension in the URL. I was doing all the copper cladding details and roof and details. It was a design/build project, so that was lots of meetings. After a design team meeting, I would lend the boys a hand on the roof or doing the cladding.

That’s where I gained most of my site experience and I suppose that’s how I learned how to manage people on site as well and how to deal with kind of more of a male dominated kind of environment.

In the roofing company I was only using a small bit of my skills and I felt like I had wasted a few years in college. A job came up with local architecture firm, so I jumped ship and went with them. Went from there to the job I am in currently, which is training in high performance building construction,
So that’s me in a nutshell.

QUESTION: Yeah. Thanks very much for that,  very interesting. I did the masters in CAT as well. another one that I we’re trying to push now and of course ye created is the NZEB fundamentals. Of course, everybody across the construction should have to do the course. We’re trying to get policymakers to bring it in as a pass for all working in the construction sector. Maybe call it the NZEBRA or some cool name, not the safe pass or the green pass but we really thinking if you had a card for it, like the Safe Pass Card after it went out of date, you send it back to get recycled and it goes to make boots or work trousers or hoodies or something to do with like, you know, site equipment. So, it’s kept in the circular principal promoted. So they have they like that idea now that it seems to be coming in like a lot of the One Stop Shops are getting all their staff to do the course it and we’re doing some retrofit and training now as well and we’re visiting a lot of the NZEB centres. We’re bringing many up to Ecological as well.

ANSWER: Yeah, I met Cronin from ecological and got him down to do an Airtightness presentation because of the pure frustration in the in the office and the QS would get hold of my drawings and say that’s not even in the budget.

So I got Cronin down to give them a talk ‘cos I thought they’re not listening to me. He did get the point across & I have to say they did prick up their ears and start thinking about Airtightness after that.  I also had that big presentation with building control earlier in the year about air quality; myself and Emmanuel Bordin (Part F) and Gary O’Sullivan from NSAI. This was an attempt to get Building Control to step up to the plate and start doing site inspections and seek validation reports.

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

ANSWER: I suppose I can only talk about my experience, which is, you know, small enough. Given my experience on site with the roofing company and stuff like that. Definitely the gender balance is just ridiculous I think I met one electrician who was female, other than that it was only the Clerk of Works or the architect on site, that was female. But in the current situation at MosArt where I’m working at the moment in our architecture department and the training department,  the gender ratio is very, very balanced. It’s very good, and that is down to Tomás & Art, you know they’re aware of how well things will work when you have that balance there.

QUESTION: And what would you think generally is the reason for such a balance of gender  in your company and across the whole construction sector?

ANSWER: Why that there’s less women than men?
I don’t really know. Some women feel intimidated by it, to be honest with you it is hard to get into. You do have to stand your ground. You are, I wouldn’t say discriminated against, but you really have to prove your worth.

And if you suggest  ‘ohh I’m a woman’ so, you know I need special treatment….. Good-bye! You’re lucky if you get a toilet that’s not a communal.
Why is that? I suppose it’s just traditional roles women stayed home. They did the office jobs,  young lads, men went out and did the hard labour. I suppose it’s just, we have to break those traditional myths more than anything.

QUESTION: And what do you think? Is today already changing from the past or do you think we need to change faster? Do you believe the future will get more balanced?

ANSWER: Yeah,  it’s definitely getting more balanced. From my experience, I volunteer with the civil defence, another very male dominated kind of environment, but much more females coming in. I see young girls now and in college they are doing engineering and other traditionally male roles, which is very good.
It’s slow, but it’s definitely changed and I do see a difference.  And even with the mindset of like Tomas and Art, you know they’re not unique. There is other people out there, but it’s just it’s just not the norm just yet. So hopefully, we’ll get there.

QUESTION: So as the construction industry today is still a male domain I suppose. What do you think we could measure? to significantly increase the proportion of women in the near future. And what could help numbers to increase do you think?

ANSWER: It’s hard to say from my limited experience to be honest with you. To increase proportion of women, I suppose there are certain jobs like that men will be able to do better and women recognize that as well. They can’t go in and say I can do everything, we can’t. Just like men, are not really suited to some of the roles that they take. Some women are good at some things and they’re really not good at other things. It’s not really about gender to be honest with you, it’s about your own abilities and your confidence in your own abilities. Once you’re confident you’re fine you’ll be able to stand your ground.

I suppose a lot of it is confidence at first confidence, like will I be able to go out there? There’ll be loads of men, maybe laughing at me, how will I handle that. You do like have to grow with thick skin and political correctness kind of goes out the window, especially if you’re on a female on your own. Just grow the thick skin, take no crap, laugh it off and that’s just all you can do.
I even noticed that in the classroom, now it’s probably not the right thing to do, but it really does break the ice; if I have a bunch of lads that think: “ohh  we’re gonna have to listen to her for 8 hours”.

I’ll just drop a couple of F***s into the sentence and the next thing everyone’s relaxed, thinking: ‘ohh she’s grand’

We can relax here now and then they start chatting and these barriers just start melting. Once you start speaking,  not speaking down to them, but just talking to them on their own level. Like I’m not Miss High & Mighty here in the top of the class. And I always when I introduce myself I say:

‘Look, you guys probably know what hell of a lot more about ventilation than I do, so every day’s a school day So, I’m here to learn as well’

And if I go home learning something today I am happy out. So that makes everybody then a bit more at ease.

There’s not this: I’m up here speaking down to them. I think it needs to be just all on one level. I mean, that’s fine in the classroom because you can control it. On site its slightly different. All hell could break loose if you had everybody on the one level, it just it won’t work in that context at all.

QUESTION: That’s a brilliant point. As I always say, we don’t look down on anybody.

ANSWER: It’s like that thing about, talking down to people like, I hate it. I was a cleaner for enough years to know. Now I’m kind of gone from that level and, I’m not saying I’m at the top, I’m not near the top, but at the same time, if the cleaner comes into the room, I will give her (it’s never a him) the time of day as well. It’s not even about male/female thing,  it’s about how you relate to people, you know, and you can come across as being standoffish which some people can say, Oh my God, he was talking to me like that because I’m female. But sometimes it’s they might not be completely confident of what they’re saying. And sometimes they kind of meet you, you know, with a brick wall so that you don’t break down their defences and show that they’re kind of not up to speed with stuff.

Women are better sussing out people a lot quicker than men. Sometimes I think in that way. And like Tomás said to me when you when you start teaching: ‘Empty vessels, make the most noise’

So there is different types of people and it’s funny the way you deal with those types of people in exactly the same way. So once you know how to manage them, it’s grand and then it’s, nothing to do with gender after that, it’s just dealing with people.

QUESTION: What do think the gender balance increase will mean for companies branding and recruitment strategies ?

ANSWER: I’d be hoping at this stage like that. Were not just stuck to two genders anymore there are different identities now.

QUESTION: So what role do you think trainers in vocational centres will play in this gender balancing of our sector and gender balance kind of?

ANSWER: I suppose because we’re there in front of them, we have a platform, we should probably use it as best we can to demonstrate that.
Like for me, I have my kids. I went to college. I got to where I am now. You know, we can have this kind of balance in construction. I think the more examples that men see, of women being well capable of doing the jobs, and sometimes they don’t, they’re kind of a bit discriminative against it because they’re afraid they’ll do a better job.

The way you’re taken seriously is, telling them my credentials and backing that up with site knowledge. Even in the Architectural Technology degree there was four women in the class out of 25, well it was slightly different for the masters, but there was definitely more men. And I suppose then just tell them about working on site, I’ve worked on site for four years and you can do it. It is male dominated but it was mostly fine. I totally enjoyed it, and had some of the best years of my life. And but then again It’s about talking to people and forgetting about gender, to be honest with you.

I suppose I’m gone past this whole gender thing, so I don’t see it a lot of the time anymore. You know what I mean? I suppose ‘cos I’ve probably grown up with it  for the last 20-30 years. I’ve just been that’s just the way it is. I’m not your typical girlie. Other women would have to have totally different views to what I’m saying. Just hearing that they probably be horrified. But that’s just my experience.

So we have a job to do and we’ll do the job. Your beliefs and your opinions are your own unless your asked for them. Then you don’t enforce them on anybody basically and that’s just it.

QUESTION: Absolutely right. So what potential do you think digitalisation and green technologies will also have in the context of training, and across the board in gender balance?

ANSWER: I don’t really get that question now. I was looking at that and I don’t understand what you’re asking me there, sorry.

QUESTION: I suppose that do you think it’ll bring more women into the sector because they would be kind of being interested. Or it might just make it easier for them to get in with digitalisation and green tech.

ANSWER: Digitalisation and green tech I don’t know. I don’t think that’s really having a big impact and there’s already more women getting into the industry without that, you know what I mean? I suppose with digitalisation and Green Tech there’s more jobs out there. You know, there’s more branches, more roads that you can branch off you don’t have to be a Carpenter, a plumber, a block or brick layer to be in construction. You don’t have to be an architect or an engineer. There’s other fields with new roles. And if the new roles need to be filled that don’t already have a traditional gender in mind, well, I’m sure women definitely will go into the sector. It will be easier for them to fill a role if they’re not trying to, you know, outdo a man, if you get me. If it’s a new role, I’d say, yeah, definitely will be easier for women to get into it. At the moment we’re trying to get into a role that was predominantly a male role. So that’s a bit more difficult. But new roles, I wouldn’t see any issue. I’d say it would definitely help to get women into construction.

QUESTION: Now, what advantages would you see having higher numbers of women in construction professions and trades?

ANSWER: I suppose it goes back to having a team of men doing a job on site, right? And you could be all one particular way of thinking, and then you could have a diverse team of men and they could be all thinking different ways which would work grand. And it’s the same if you bring women into that mix, I don’t think it’s always the fact that it’s male or female, It’s just the more diverse it can be, the better. And women, are a little bit more meticulous. They are a little bit more by the book. Well, in my experience they are anyway. So, sometimes that’s a good thing. I remember having one particular and employer and I used to do everything by the book and he’d nearly be giving out to me, saying if you keep going this way you’re costing me money.  So I think men can be a little bit more lackadaisical. Men are a little bit more if he doesn’t care I don’t care, but this is just a broad sweeping statement, and only my opinion.

Whereas I’d be annoyed if I wasn’t doing a job right but then again I think that’s just personal I don’t think that’s a male female thing. I don’t think it’s really a gender thing, to be honest with you.

I do feel that women do look at sometimes from a different angle. If there if you are problem solving on site, definitely I do think women could contribute a hell of a lot more and with housekeeping and stuff like that you know trip slips and falls, stuff like that. Men are a little bit more lackadaisical about things like that.

I’m health and safety for the civil defence and I do see some of the lads are a bit careless  and I ask do you not see that and they say:‘Ohh yeah’, but then that could be just a personal thing as well. Maybe not gender, I’m not sure.

QUESTION: OK, we’re at the last one now. So what advice would you give to young women considering a career in construction at the moment if you were asked?

ANSWER: I suppose it goes back to the other point I made. Is it a new role or an existing role? If it’s a new role, you know, go for it. Same advice you’d give to a man if he was going for the job. If you’re trying to step into a role that was predominantly a male one you’re gonna have to have the right attitude. If you go into it, look for special attention or a special treatment or anything like that just because you’re female, you know, good luck. There’s no point or time for that on site. So you do have to grow a thick skin if you want to move into a male dominated role. You have to be able to get on with your with your peers, and so sometimes you just have to grow a thick skin and just learn to stand up yourself and basically take no crap.

Sometimes it works really well because fellas, they’ll talk to a woman as well on site and you don’t have to be bleeding heart.  But you do get the feel for how people are in themselves like as well. So, it can be very macho that way. I suppose in that way you can be a support to them,  you don’t have to be and intimidating them or taking their jobs or anything like that.

We’re all different. We can support each other to get a job most definitely.

But to encourage women into the job, I mean, I love when I see young women and they’re saying, yeah, I’m doing civil engineering  and I’m doing construction engineering.

Whatever it is like, I just think fair play. Brilliant. I’d be delighted now. And I don’t care. Like if they’re the banksman/banksperson in the crane or whatever. I don’t care I just think they’re brilliant and I think it is brave step and I’d be encouraging them 100%.

But I would be saying,  just grow thick skin cause PC goes out the window on site. And there’s  bullying and stuff like that It is terrible. But like, that’s what you’re up against. And you do have to be able for it. So, you kinda do need the right attitude as well.