Contributed by Marvin Kemp
Anyone who knows me well knows a couple of things about me: I love practicing architecture, I have a deep commitment to making our industry better and I feel that only through collaboration and inclusion can we make our industry better.
I live in a suburb of Baltimore, MD, but our office is downtown on Pratt Street in the Inner Harbor area. I drive through neighborhoods of poverty and blight on my commute to and from work most days. I have no experiences in my life to compare with what these neighbors go through every day. I watch and read the news daily and it seems that we are failing much of our inner city. And not just Baltimore, but most cities in the U.S. My parents live outside of Dallas and we talk about the same issues facing the folks who live in the impoverished areas of that city.
I see it on our job sites and I discuss with others in the industry: we cannot get enough people to come into construction as skilled or unskilled workers. I don't know what the reasons are, but there seem to be some barriers to entry.
I also see something else: a gender gap. Our office has 92 people and 38 are women. There clearly is no shortage of women interested in studying architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning. When I was studying architecture in the late 1980's, we still had professors who felt that women did not belong in our profession and actively attempted to fail them. We've come a long way, but more work is needed in design professions, especially ensuring both genders have leadership opportunities.
But, when was the last time you saw a woman working on a construction site? I occasionally run across a plumber or electrician who is female, but they are so few and far between, it seems incredible. That's not to mention the harassment, chauvinism and pay inequity that these women experience when they actually start working. I see the graffiti on our job sites, so I can only imagine what women see, hear and feel if they step on those sites.
I think we need to start a dialogue on these issues and I know some already are having conversations."
We also need to remove as many barriers to entry into construction as we can. Part of that effort is taking place in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania with a program started by the Greater Lehigh Valley Chapter of CSI called "Let's Build Construction Camp For Girls." This is a program for high school age girls in the Greater Lehigh Valley to attend a free camp to learn about the building trades. Check out GLV CSI's web-site for information on the camp, which includes their 2018 session from July 9th to the 13th.
Its inaugural year was in 2017 and was a huge success. There are other CSI chapters considering starting a similar program to help break down some of those barriers to entry into the construction industry. What else can we do?
(Editor's Note: You can read the introductory blog post on the 'Let's Build Construction Camp For Girls' from the Greater Lehigh Valley Chapter of CSI's President, Jon Lattin, on the Let's Fix Construction site here, as well as a follow-up on the Camp here.)
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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