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The first ladies of construction

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In anticipation of International Women’s Day 2022 and in celebration of Ireland’s first fully licensed female crane driver, let’s take a look at some of the other first ladies of construction who ‘paved the way’ (pun intended) for women in the trade today.

Last month, eighteen-year-old Kate Fahey became Ireland’s first fully licensed female crane driver, after finishing six months of training. Now, Kate is urging other women to follow in her footsteps and consider a career in construction.

While the Considerate Constructors Scheme estimates that only one in every ten workers in construction is a woman, and 90% of women working in construction are actually off the tools, it appears that the tide is beginning to turn.

For example, Gov UK tells us that in 2018-2019, 2.74% of people who completed their apprenticeships were women, but in the most recent academic year, 75% of traineeship starters were women: an encouraging increase of 72%.

And why is this important? Charlotte Childs, GMB National Officer for Construction and Engineering, says that women will be vital to plug the skills gap that exists in construction in the UK.

In anticipation of International Women’s Day 2022 and in celebration of Ireland’s first fully licensed female crane driver, let’s take a look at some of the other first ladies of construction who ‘paved the way’ (pun intended) for women in the trade today.

Constance Tipper (1894-1995)

Constance Tipper invented the ‘Tipper Test’ to examine the brittleness of steel under cold temperatures, especially with the steel used in the construction of warships and cargo ships in the Second World War. She was the first female full-time faculty member at Cambridge University Department of Engineering.

Paul Coxon on Twitter: "🎂 Today is Constance Tipper's birthday! In the 1920s she was described as “the only woman metallurgist in the world”. Her research on brittle fracture helped keep the

(image source: Twitter)

Dame Caroline Haslett (1895-1957)

Engineer Dame Caroline Haslett was the founding Secretary and President of the Women’s Engineering Society. She also co-founded the Electrical Association for Women: an organisation formed to reduce the drudgery of women’s everyday lives by encouraging the use of electricity in the home. She edited its journal, the Electrical Age, for 30 years and 6 editions of the Electrical Handbook for Women.

Caroline Haslet working at her desk

(Image source: Renishaw)

Caroline Haslett also advised the Government on planning in the Second World War, and was the only woman member of the Council of the British Institute of Management.

Henrietta “Hettie” Bussell (1917-1996)

Hettie Bussell was the UK’s first female railway engineer. She left school in 1933 in the depths of the great depression, and after struggling to find work, decided to apply for a job with the Great Western Railway, where her father worked.

Blog Archives - Magnificent Women

(Image source: Magnificent Women)

After placing 2nd out of 6 entrants in the initial exam, she became the first female tracer with the Great Western Railway in 1934. She was also the only woman in the Cardiff office at the time. 8 years later she was promoted and became the first woman on the technical staff, then made her way to become an engineering assistant in 1966. In 1971, at the age of 54, she was promoted finally to Senior Engineering Assistant, in the Chief Civil Engineer’s Office of British Railways western region.

Visit Magnificent Women to find more pioneering women in construction.
Are there any women working in construction who inspire you? Get in touch and let us know.
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