Women in construction push for recognition, respect
On International Women's Day, President of the Caribbean Association of Women in Construction (CARAWIC), Tahalia Sherwood, is hoping that women in construction and engineering will receive the respect and recognition they rightfully deserve.
"I think we are appreciated where we are, but I don't think we are celebrated at all, I don't think we are recognised. I would definitely like to see improvement in the credibility and confidence placed in women in the construction industry. I would like to see more women choosing to join the field, and I'd like to see more women in leadership roles in construction, starting our own businesses," the construction guru shared, as celebrations continue for Women in Construction Week, March 5-11.
Sherwood, who has over 20 years' experience in construction, having worked on housing development projects in Jamaica and the Caribbean, noted that conversations with other women in the industry showed there was a need to form the organisation, to provide mentorship for women.
"It provides women, like myself, who did not have mentorship, did not have people who, you know, would take you under their wings and kind of guide you. And because we are so few, we don't get that sort of mentorship. The people who are at the top of the field don't really have the same experiences we have, they don't have the same issues that we have; nobody is really addressing it. It is kind of a technical subject," Sherwood related.
She noted further the role of CARAWIC, which was formed in 2022 to advocate and ensure that women engineers have the guidance to transition into their careers, irrespective of the gender bias that exists in the male-dominated industry.
"We hope as well that we will be able to kind of change some of the culture towards women in construction. We want to change the culture for Caribbean construction professionals in general, because there is a great disparity in terms of someone coming from the United States saying how much they would get paid, as opposed to what an engineer who lives in Jamaica would get, whether you are male or female. Those are the things we want to address as a part of our goal," she told THE STAR.
The CARAWIC president shared with the news team that there is a public perception of women engineers being inferior to their male counterparts, irrespective of their qualifications. Women make up only one per cent of the construction workforce in the Caribbean, and Sherwood is hoping that the statistics will increase.
"It's an exceptional woman, to me, who takes on construction; it is not an ordinary person, and it is something to be celebrated," she said. "We want to break out of the stereotype of women engineers being less capable than men," she said.