Interview: Introducing “Women in BIM”
Updated: Nov 6, 2020
Earlier this year, I attended the “International Women’s Day event” in London where I had the chance to meet a group of female and male construction professionals sharing ideas about women’s role in the construction sector and BIM implementation in the industry.
There is no doubt that the construction sector is still a very male dominated working field and the concept of the glass ceiling is still a barrier for women in terms of professional opportunities and salary equality. If you think that the construction sector is a gender diverse industry you probably haven’t visited a construction site or a corporate meeting, where women are often low represented.
However, this discussion is not about feminism. It is about drawing women together into an environment of shared information and global interaction. “Women in BIM” receives a great deal of support from men, from sponsors and partnerships across the world.
In addition, BIM is a collaborative process and at the same time an opportunity for some of the best female qualities to thrive: collaboration, openness and the willingness to reach others in an agreement for the development of a transparent digital construction process.
Vicki Holmes is a core team member of Women in BIM and she shares some insight about the role of the organization in the global industry, supporting events, networking opportunities and the benefits of being part of a BIM global female network.
Breakwithanarchitect: How did “Women in BIM” come about?
Vicki: "Women in BIM" was founded in 2012 by Rebecca De Cicco as a response to the lack of Women in BIM related roles and in attendance at conferences all over the world. At the very beginning of establishing the group Rebecca found that there was often a lack of woman either speaking at an event or working on projects, and coupled with the lack of female leaders in construction generally she felt a focused Women in BIM group was required to help to support others in this position and grow a network.
The group has evolved into a global community of Women working in BIM. The intention of the group is to support Women in BIM related roles and enable the following:
" To encourage and support young women in entering the Construction Industry and BIM related careers. To support women in their region of the world on the hard face of projects and share ideas across regions and roles. To retain women in Leadership as too many women are leaving and not re-entering following career breaks. "
At present we now have over 800 members globally and growing and we hope to create regional hubs of support all over the world.
Breakwithanarchitect: What is your role in the organization?
Vicki: I am a part of the core team and I’m also the Regional Lead for London. I work to build our network in the London and South East area of the UK, and I connect with local events and other businesses and initiatives to create interesting collaborations that interest and excite our members.
Breakwithanarchitect: Who are the people behind “Women in BIM”?
Vicki: We are made up of 8 core team members:
Rebecca De Cicco, Founder and Chair
Twitter - @becdecicco
Louise Kelly, Global Vice Chair @Louise
Twitter - @weezybop
Nicole De Cicco, Global Administration & Communications
Twitter – @nicdecicco
Katya Veleva, Communities & Engagement
Twitter – @katyaveleva
Vicki Holmes, London Regional Lead & Events Coordination
Twitter - @Vicki_Digital
Gergana Staykova, Core Team
Twitter - @grgnstkv
Michelle Cochran, Core Team
Twitter – @Mcvcmc
Dr Jenni Barrett, Core Team
Twitter - @Meme_Cloud
We also have a number of regional leads across the globe, with a lead in all of the areas listed below:
UK – London
UK – Manchester
UK – Cornwall
UK – Bristol
Australia – SA
Australia – NSW
Australia – Victoria
Australia – WA
Australia – Brisbane
New Zealand – Christchurch
USA – Texas
USA – Seattle, Washington
USA – Cleveland, Ohio
USA – Salt Lake City, Utah
USA – Philadelphia
Canada – Toronto
United Arab Emirates – Dubai
If you would like to connect with your Regional Lead, or would like to become a lead for a region not yet covered, please email info@womeninBIM.org
Breakwithanarchitect: The construction industry is a male dominated industry. A lot of people talk about the concept of glass ceiling that prevents women to climb the corporate ladder. How can we overcome this barrier?
Vicki: We have a huge problem with attracting and then retaining female talent in this industry, and that is our biggest shortfall. Not enough women are progressing in to leadership roles, because there are simply not enough women interested in staying in Construction. I often go to schools and colleges to present to young people about the huge opportunities available in our industry, but often it’s too late – children and young adults have a specific and often quite inaccurate view of our industry; that it is for old men, it is dirty and unforgiving, and that it is not a prestigious career choice. This is bad enough, but then when young women are interested, they look ahead of them and see very few female role models in senior positions. Then, if they get as far as taking a role on site, they often find they are outnumbered heavily by their male colleagues, and will often feel the need to fight to justify their position.
The problem is cyclical, as we need more female role models to attract women in to the industry, but if we’re not attracting women in to the industry we can’t produce those role models. Then we move on to the more sinister problems, such as gender pay gaps and discrimination in the work place.
These issues can only be overcome if the industry tackles problems like implicit bias and bad behavior at the root. Executives and business owners need to lead by example, promoting and rewarding behaviours across their organisations that are collaborative and inclusive, and visibly reprimanding those that are combative or discriminative. I firmly believe that quotas and premature promotions for women are not the answer – the issue is rooted in the core behaviours of organisations and the industry.
Breakwithanarchitect: How has the Women in BIM initiative been perceived by the male professionals in the construction sector?
Vicki: Support from our male colleagues has always been fantastic. Our biggest barrier is that occasionally men do not realise that they are invited to the table, to work with us on creating and inclusive and supportive industry that’s more pleasant for everyone. We want to make it very clear that we welcome everyone to join this conversation, and the support we’ve had from men has always been appreciated. In fact, it was a male colleague who introduced me to Women in BIM initially.
Breakwithanarchitect: You are currently working as a digital manager. In your experience, how can BIM as a process help women professionals to find a career path in the construction sector?
Vicki: I think that BIM has changed the rules of the game just enough to disrupt the status quo. In the UK especially, there has always been this bias, whether it was conscious or unconscious, which associated engineering and construction with middle aged straight white men.
By calling for a new skill, digital construction and BIM has forced the industry to look outside of that stereotyped bracket now, and for this reason, I think the door is now open to women in a way it never was previously. Now, the industry is beginning to value skill over familiarity, and in the process of doing that, we’re starting to see the benefits of having diverse, dynamic and inclusive teams on project delivery.
Breakwithanarchitect: Women in BIM has inspired a large number of BIM women professionals to become more active in their field. What are the benefits and opportunities for women professionals that wish to join the organization?
Vicki: With hundreds of members across the globe, Women in BIM creates connections and shares knowledge throughout its network and beyond, supporting events by providing partnerships, speakers and field specialists, and supporting its members with benefits such as discount codes and networking opportunities.
Breakwithanarchitect: What are the future plans of Women in BIM?
Vicki: Global domination! With the development and release of ISO 19650, international working is now going to become more accessible. Equally, a more standard global approach to BIM allows for the sharing of more relevant lessons learned between countries. We want the women in our network to be able to reach out to their peers across the world for support and advice, and for that to enable them to be industry leaders in their respective locations.
We’d also love for the Women in BIM logo to become even more synonymous with quality, so that when travelling, people can use our network to identify great events to attend and organisations to connect with.
But even more important than any of those targets is that we continue to grow so that we can support women in the industry, helping them to advance in their careers and giving them a reason to stay.
Digital Manager at Multiplex,
Core Team at Women in BIM
#Interview by Panagiotidou Nicoleta, BIM specialist for Breakwithanarchitect
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