blog, by cristina lanz azcarate
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My speech at the London Build Expo 2017

First published on the 27th of October at the NAWIC website (LINK)

“Good morning everyone

It is great to be back at London Build and continue to be part of what has rapidly stablished as a regular fixture of our industry’s calendar as well as NAWIC’s own .

NAWIC or The National Association of Women in Construction, for those who don’t know us, is one of the world’s longest running women lead cross discipline organisations within the construction industry.

Founded in Texas, in 1955, it emerged from a small network of women who were active in the industry and already in business with each other. It started as a support network looking to create a platform from which the female working in the industry could achieve their full potential.

In the words of Alise Ashley , one of the founding members, these were women with electricity in their veins and cement dust on their shoes.

Over the years, NAWIC has grow to become a global organisation with presence in he USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand , South Africa and the UK&Ireland. The latter is purely run by volunteers and has a presence in eight separate regions including London and the South East where I am the Chair .

Our focus still is to support the development of talented individuals working within the industry and to challenge preconceptions by shining a light on the work they do. This is a shared purpose with the team behind the London Build and the reason why we are so happy to be here today.

It is also a shared purpose with many of the organisations we collaborate with.

Women into construction (offering training and a foot through the door into the industry)

Women in Trade magazine (giving a voice and help raise awareness of the roles available within the industry)

Chicks with Bricks (nurturing a cross-generational dialogue between professional women…you will shortly be hearing more about it)

Fluid Mentoring and Built by us (helping minority groups stay and thrive within our industry through mentoring)

Built Environment Skills in Schools Programme (focusing on engaging the next generation )

And these are just a few

The women in our industry are a generous and inclusive bunch and given that we are only 12/14% (depending on whose figures we look at) many of us know each other at a personal level and support the work we do for we understand that in order to ensure a sustainable future for our industry, we need foundations that are built less in competition and more on the common purpose each of us share with the individuals who form the teams delivering our projects and shapping (literaly) the built environment.

In our experience, the ability to nurture teamwork and a sense of purpose are tools which belong in women’s belts and given that studies show that the sense of purpose , social impact and teamwork are proven drives of both Women and millennials, our industry would clearly benefit from a wider female involvement.

I can safely assume that all of us here understand the consequences of letting go the valuable experience and knowledge of those about to retire without a chance to pass those skills on to the next generation.

What could be less evident is that we can make a difference to our industry both individually and collectively by sharing our passion for the work we do more openly and by calling out those who are holding us back with their visual illiteracy.

A few weeks ago, the Young Women Trust published another enquiry under the title “No Country for young Women”. The report, which is focused on 18 to 30 year olds, paints a post Brexit bleak picture that reflects the desilussion that many reported in the months leading on to the referendum.

Last week the RICS and YouGov Diversity Survey suggested that 30% of young women saw our industry as a sexist industry. In fact, 10% expressed that it was better suited for the opposite sex.

As working adults, we have an obligation to create a more inclusive environment where people feel they belong to and to share stories which will both engage and inspire.

This is why I must take this opportunity to encourage you to participate in our latest project, a photographic book of portraits showcasing the women who work in our industry accompanied with their own unique stories. A book without room for stereotypes, focused on the person behind the image. It is our intention to reflect the true face of our industry and for this endeavour, we need your help . Do consider putting yourselves forward. (LINK)

Before i introduce Holly, I will leave you with a final thought. One i never could have imagined saying aloud for i was brought up in a gender neutral environment where I did the same things my brother did. It is not mine but by a much more eloquent Londoner, a certain Virginia Woolf  “As a woman, I have no country. As a woman my country is the world.” I would like to propose that us Women in Contruction come together to support each other as well as others, to create an industry which others will want to be part of too.”


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