Cathy Bartlett a building control surveyor at EDDC
Cathy Bartlett a building control surveyor at EDDC

Encourage women and girls to consider construction as a career path there are so many more roles to it, other than bricklaying and plumbing.

This is the advice of building control surveyor Cathy Bartlett who started her career when there was only 29 other women across the country doing the same. She now works as part of a team of nine technical staff at East Devon District Council (EDDC), where she is the only woman.

To mark International Women's Day (March 8th), EDDC are releasing features on women working in male-dominated industries to highlight the challenges they face and show how everyone can promote equality.

About Cathy (a building control surveyor at EDDC):

Cathy joined EDDC in 1989, nearly 35 years ago as a building control assistant after taking on a Youth Training Scheme (like an apprenticeship) with another council and completing a building studied degree, she also had a spell within a London Borough.

Cathy’s job involves checking plans and going out to construction sites to make sure building works comply with the Building Regulations.

What is it like working in a traditionally male dominated environment?

I don’t take any notice that I’m the only female apart from the occasional time I meet another female on site and I’m like ‘oh my goodness another female!’

In six years, I’ve only met three different females in physical buildings roles; females are more likely to be in a surveying or assistant site agent type role.

What challenges do you think women tend to face in the workplace?

I think part of it is our own challenge, in the unknown world of construction. There have been lots of positive changes to get more females into construction roles - at the moment, only 13 per cent of people in the building control technical workforce is female. In 1985 there were only 29 in the whole country.

What support do you think other people and people’s teams can do to promote equality?

Positive role models are one aspect. Juggling childcare and work are very hard as a woman, I have been through that stage. My advice is to have good childcare that you trust and take any support that is on hand.

Education is another aspect. Girls tend to not know that construction is open to them. I’m a Brownie leader and when I tell them what I do, they don’t believe it. Construction is not on their wavelength, it is not even a consideration. 

What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing your role?

Go for it. So many of my friends have never gone and tried a career idea they like the sound of it. If you have aspirations, don’t let your reservations hold you back.

Don’t let worries about being a woman hold you back especially. I have been in this profession 35 years, and I can only think of one time at the very beginning of my career that I received a negative comment because I was green and a woman. I just thought, ‘right I’m going to show them’. There is so much respect for building control, in the main we are welcomed.

How can we encourage more women into this career?

Education on knowing it is an option in the first place. There are so many roles to construction other than bricklaying. I think it needs to be sold as a career path in schools. It is a great balance of office and outside work and is one of those rare jobs that are Monday to Friday. It is a good salary and allows for flexible hours.

Qualification wise, you normally need a degree but there are plenty of apprenticeships out there. It is also one of those roles where you can work in the public sector, like for a council, or in the private sector for an independent company.