Construction has, for a long time, been considered a masculine profession.
However, in the past, the necessity of war has seen women take on these masculine roles. Both World War One and World War Two has seen a large increase in female construction workers, following a shortage of male workers. Once the conflict was over though, and the men returned, the women were not accepted by men or trade unions and they were forced back into more ‘traditional’ roles.
The most notable construction work completed by women in WW2 though was the Waterloo Bridge. In 1944, 25,000 women were working in the construction industry. They would have been working as either labourers, brick layers or joiners. They worked in these professions this with the understanding that they would be paid less than their comparative male workers and that they would give up these jobs when the men came back from war.
The bridge they were tasked to build was to replace a previous one which had issues with its foundations, leading to its closure. The bridge was officially opened in December 1945, once the war was over. Unfortunately though, the women were not recognised for their work. According to construction historian Christine Wall, they were overlooked due to the liquidation of the construction firm behind the build. All of their records were lost and there was no images of the women working on the bridge.
The daughter of Peter Lind, the man who owned the construction firm, can confirm their contribution to the construction of the bridge though. She describes that when she was younger, she was taken to the construction site. There, she recalls seeing women working. Apparently, these women who were working on the bridge would have earned around one shilling and sixpence an hour. This would have been far less than the male rate.
Women are now though more prominent within the construction sector. They now account for 20% of all construction workers. There is also the expectation that this will then rise to 26% by 2020.
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