Since its inauguration in March 2021, our Girls Believe Academy has grown from strength to strength. Launched by our employee-led women’s network WeLink UK and supported by our social value teams, the initiative embodies our firm belief that girls and young women should have equal access to all industries and sectors.
The historic systemic underrepresentation of women and girls in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) is well-documented. Currently, there are fewer women than men who choose to study the subjects at further education, correlating to a later gender imbalance within the industries these fields represent [AAUW, 2022]. The potential reasons for this are myriad and complex, ranging from a lack of encouragement, gender bias, and perceptions of a male-dominated built environment sector that are rapidly becoming outdated.
The Girls Believe Academy tackles these challenges head-on. Armed with the knowledge that there are over 320,000 female construction workers in the UK and that our group has a female workforce double the industry standard, our representatives and champions introduce female students to the built environment as we know it: a diverse sector filled with exciting opportunities for all genders. Showcasing the vast range of routes into the industry, the Girls Believe Academy engages with girls to help them understand how their individual skill sets and ambitions would be valued within the construction industry.
Testament to this was their recent visit to eight schools close to communities where we work, including Pencoedtre High School in South Wales and St Augustine’s Federated Schools. Our representatives’ presentation highlighted and challenged stereotypical perceptions, while promoting the different roles available to women in the ever-evolving built environment.
Brian Haley, Community Engagement Officer at Bouygues E&S, an Equans company, presented at St Augustine’s Federated Schools. He noted how engaged the students were with the session and the initiative they showed when asking questions, adding that:
“The Girls Believe Academy is a great initiative to showcase the career pathways within the industry but also to challenge the stereotypes of it."
Meanwhile, Abdel Ydri, Careers Lead at St Augustine’s Federated Schools shared with us:
"We believe that unless we expose our students to the real world of work, they are likely to miss out on potential opportunities open to them in the future. Bouygues E&S’ scheme ‘Girls Believe’ is an excellent programme to create equal opportunities and promote job roles that are traditionally male-dominated and seem unreachable. The interactive talk, visit and tour of a building site and meeting with inspirational professionals have helped our students build the confidence to challenge themselves and believe in their abilities when planning their career. The number of female students enquiring about work experience in the construction field is increasing indeed and we are appreciative and pleased with that.’"
Geraldine Doyle, Business Engagement Advisor at Pencoedtre High School, added:
“Bouygues E&S was invited to present at our career's carousel, which provided our Year 9 pupils with the opportunity to listen to employers talk about jobs, apprenticeships, skills and qualifications. This is hugely beneficial as they make their GCSE subject choices this year. Construction being one of the most popular sectors chosen by the pupils for this event is evidence of how perceptions are changing and interest in this industry is increasing amongst pupils.”
A survey conducted by the school with the pupils after the event revealed 85% thought the event was excellent and 100% learned something new. This is testament to our contribution and the importance of educating and sharing insights on industry that needs to continue to attract a diverse range of talent across the board no matter the gender.
By showcasing the vast range of exciting opportunities within our field that are available to students of every gender, we seeks to smash the stereotype that careers in construction are available only for men in hard hats. Instead, the Girls Believe Academy share what Bouygues E&S, an Equans company, embodies everyday: that our industry is diverse, exciting, and filled with opportunities for all. Engaging with the next generation of talent in this way is vital to addressing the skills gap and inspiring girls to explore all that our sector can offer.