Kerry Edwards, FCBStudios and Anna Webster, Interrobang, founders of WOWO look at the impact that a training and mentoring programme for young women can have on bringing women into traditionally male workplaces.
"Young women can feel there are barriers to working in STEM*, from not having any role models who work in these careers to having misconceptions about what jobs entail. It's crucial we do things like this so we can support the next generation of women." LB of Hackney, Deputy Mayor, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble on the WOWO Workshops
Women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, but earn 10% of the income and own 1% of the property. In the UK, women account for only 11% of the construction industry with fewer than 1% involved in on-site trades.
As part of humanitarian design and construction practice Orkidstudio, we have worked alongside many inspiring and talented women, who face daily challenges and major barriers in their lives that are compounded by their gender. We aim to disrupt these physical and perceived boundaries and support young women in accessing opportunities for a career in the built environment, a sector that is transforming in the face of rapidly advancing technologies.
WOWO is a training and mentoring outreach programme for teenage girls and young women in East London aged 14-21 with a focus on trades and other male-dominated workplaces in the design and construction industry. In collaboration with a group of like-minded organisations and inspiring female mentors, we support young women in developing the necessary skills, networks and confidence to become future innovators. We work to celebrate the raw talent and skills of young people in our community through hands-on making and building projects.
Over the summer WOWO ran a series of pilot skills workshops where mentors led groups of young women in the fields of carpentry, electrics, metalsmithing, coding and engineering, following a common brief to create a constructed or digital outcome. The process was documented with the help of the workshop participants and the work produced will be displayed in a collaborative exhibition “WOWOspace” in the new year.
Ironing out gender imbalances in design and construction is becoming an increasingly hot topic among industry professionals. Whilst we are keen to encourage and take part in this dialogue, our programme aims to move beyond discussion. We engage with and really listen to what the next generation of change makers have to say.
The young women gave feedback at each workshop about Women Working in the construction industry, which will be used to inform our long-term programme:
“I think that if you are a woman working in the construction industry you are doing amazingly. Nowadays I think there’s an increasing number of women working in these fields but before there was nobody”
“That they are hardcore :)”
“These kinds of projects where girls are involved are really good because they encourage everyone”
“When I think of women in construction it kind of seems a little bit unconventional and unusual but there need to be more women in that sector so it is something that I would like to support.”
“Women are usually less confident to express their ideas in comparison with men”
“Amazing, strong and inspirational”
“I didn’t really think that they existed but attending this workshop has changed that!”
“There seem to be more women in design-based roles than in hands-on roles - I was impressed to meet electricians working for an all-female company”
Kerry Edwards and Anna Webster