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West London College Construction Students Featured on Channel 5 Live News

Channel 5 (@5_News) Live visited the West London College (@westlondoncol), Park Royal Construction Academy on Monday (11 October 2021) to interview female students, turning the tide against gender stereotyping. The symbolic day was the ‘UN International Day of the Girl’, and the day on which Plan International, a global children’s charity, released a report showing that 68% of girls in the UK feel held back by harmful expectations.

1000 girls aged 11 – 18 were surveyed in the UK. Sixty per cent said that girls are taught they are not good at DIY or fixing things. The Channel 5 news team, reporter Leyla Hayes and camera and sound recordist Jonny Bonny, interviewed apprentice Niamh, and students Arina and Seema, to find out why they chose to make their careers in construction. 

Niamh, who is a plumbing apprentice aged 17, said: 
“I’ve always been into physical work and the construction industry has really interested me, and I just wanted to show that women can be as good as men in more of the “manly” careers.”

Arina is aged 18. She is studying electrical installations. Arina said: 
“There’s not a lot of women working in the construction industry, and construction itself is just cool, you know. You can do so many like… it’s such a broad range, and you can do so much with it as well, but I’ve never had anything negative. Maybe a look, like “What’s she doing here?” but then when they see what I can do they’re like “Okay! Never mind.”

Seema, aged 54, is training to be an electrician. She said: 
“This trade has always been associated with men, so why not women? So, I thought if women can do other jobs, why not do construction jobs?”

Head of Construction at West London College, Mandy Bahra, said: 

“I’ve been Head of Construction for a couple of years now, and I’ve seen the growth in female learners coming here, so I feel optimistic about that, so I think the change in mindset is happening, but it’s very slow.”

Whether on television and films, or from their friends, family and others, the majority of girls surveyed in the poll say they are being taught that women and girls are: irrational or hysterical (60 per cent), better suited to housework and/or should take care of the home (72 per cent), ‘bossy’ if they are being assertive (61 per cent) and not good at sports (53 per cent).

More than half had been told they could not do something that boys or men are allowed to do (52 per cent).

In the survey, girls said they felt that being attractive was the quality most valued by society – while they themselves felt being clever or intelligent and assertive and confident were the most important qualities in girls. 

They felt that young women like tennis player Emma Raducanu, climate activist Greta Thunberg and education campaigner Malala Yousafzai are good role models for girls.

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