Dr Whitney Bevan from RGU in front of a blue background

Smashing Stereotypes: Dr Whitney Bevan

By Dr Whitney Bevan, Lecturer in Construction Management - 11 March 2024

So am I and other women like me working in construction, a sector widely dominated by men, smashing stereo-types in STEM? Well, no if I’m honest. I don’t think I could use the words ‘smashing it’.

We are all extremely passionate and having conversations within the classroom, local schools, Universities and workplaces, but there is still a way to go in terms of the future generation understanding the creative roles available within the sector, the day-to-day activities and innovation they have the potential to be part of. 

I think it starts with schoolchildren. It's about having discussions with young people so that they open their eyes to the opportunities available at an early stage.

When I was growing up, I knew construction was out there. My mum worked for Howdens Joinery and my dad spent years renovating our houses. We effectively lived ‘on site’ at our last house, whilst dad developed the physical landscape and mum designed the interior.  There was and continues to be a project of some kind ongoing in my family home. More importantly, my parents said I could be whatever I wanted to be, whether it be in construction, engineering or an astronaut!

Having the knowledge and idea that construction is creative and requires critical thinking, and is open to all, is crucial if we are to have a thriving, inclusive sector and that’s why awareness raising campaigns, such as a British Science Week are so important. This week gives students the opportunity to see the types of activities they may be involved in within construction and other industries. When you can visibly see what you will be doing, as well as other people doing that role, I think it allows you to visualise yourself doing that role.

For me, it's about demystifying sectors and encouraging curiosity so that people know what opportunities there are. I teach Construction Project Management, but I don’t think everyone is aware of what it encompasses. There are so many different daily activities within the role, you could be on site or managing client relations offsite.

RGU has a very supportive Equality and Diversity Policy and for the past three years, I've organised an International Women's Day Breakfast at the University. Each year, the events grown bigger and bigger, and this year we invited a panel of inspiring women to share their experiences and to discuss the IWD theme, #InspireInclusion. As part of the event, we also encouraged men to come along and join in the discussion on the challenges facing women entering construction and other STEM subjects. 

I believe that encouraging more women into construction, and I guess ‘smashing’ the stereotype, is closely linked with skills. There’s a serious shortage of skilled professionals in the construction sector and we need to take a different approach to breaking down the barriers.  We need males and females, like you do in any job to bring diversity and new perspectives to the industry which will lead to a more inclusive and innovative workplace. We are taking steps to break ‘stereotypes’ about who can go into STEM, we just need to do more of what we’re doing, more often and it’s going to take time.

British Science Week is a ten-day celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths, taking place between 8 - 17 March 2024. This year’s theme is ‘smashing stereotypes’, celebrating the diverse people and careers in STEM.

On RGView, we have featured five leading staff members who have each written about their experience of smashing stereotypes. Read their inspiring stories:

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