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Empowering Young Women in a Male-Dominated Field

Architecture and Construction

By Georgina Abboud

Empowering women has been a major challenge in the Middle Eastern region in recent decades. But even though women in Palestine face numerous obstacles such as cultural and religious barriers, discrimination, and unequal access to resources and opportunities, they have made significant strides in the fight for gender equality and the promotion of their rights and empowerment in their lives and in their careers.
In recent years, the role of women in the political, economic, and social spheres has increased. Women have actively participated in local elections and worked in various political and technical professions, challenging the traditional gender roles and stereotypes. In addition, several organizations and advocacy groups have promoted women’s rights and gender equality. These organizations provide educational and training programs as well as support services to women in need and work hard to raise awareness when it comes to gender-based violence and discrimination.
Despite these advancements, women, mainly the new generation in Palestinian communities, still face numerous challenges and obstacles, especially in the workforce. For example, discrimination, harassment, lack of access to leadership roles, and unequal pay remain prevalent in the workforce, and women are often underrepresented in leadership positions. In addition, the ongoing conflict and political instability in the country and in the region as a whole have led to increased levels of tension, violence, and discrimination against women, both in community life and in the work environment.
As an advocate for women’s rights and empowerment in East Jerusalem, I know how hard it is to fit in and prove myself in the male-dominated field of architecture and construction. The ongoing experiences that I and many other women in this field go through have prompted me to start mentoring young women designers and architects. I aim to help them grow not only as female leaders in the field but also as individuals in the community. The mentorship pathway that I provide empowers them and makes them more confident in their careers from a young age. It allows them to interact with all the male figures on sites and helps them build their professional personality. Because each woman should feel confident and fully respected in her field, it is of high importance to provide women with support and to fight for their rights.
Women in the architecture and construction field face many uncomfortable situations due to the lack of female figures. Unfortunately, women architects and engineers are not always taken seriously, especially when they are young. Therefore, we, the young generation, need to make the change. We need to bring our daily concerns and struggles to the table and continue to fight for our basic career rights until our voices are heard: as young architects, as leaders, and as women!
Georgina with her intern, Hanin Abdul Ghani, on construction site.

Implementing the following suggestions will help improve the current situation in architecture and construction and empower young women architects, encouraging them to become leaders in their careers.
First, we must provide scholarships to interested women to help introduce them to the field. There is a high need for architecture firms to provide mentorship programs and internships that introduce women to the day-to-day field experiences and expose them to the challenges that they will face in the practical work. Such exposure to work challenges from a young age and early in their careers will help young female architects develop their leadership skills and learn how to deal with the job obstacles they may face.
Second, we must provide intense training and sufficient resources for young female architects both during and after their studies, as this will help them develop the necessary skills and knowledge to work on construction sites. Such training must include safety regulations, construction techniques, and, most importantly, successful communication skills with the many male figures involved on site, including laborers, contractors, engineers, and consultants.
Third, as women leaders in the field, we must promote a safe and healthy work environment for all females on construction sites. This includes treating every person with complete respect, through words, body language, and facial expressions. We must also ensure that everyone on site is given equal opportunities when it comes to presenting and sharing ideas and giving feedback. No one should feel less important or less valuable than others simply because of their age or gender. These important values will help ensure that female figures on construction sites feel welcomed, appreciated, and respected.

Women in construction.

Fourth, while we as women leaders on site must strive to provide a safe environment for all colleagues, including women, we also need to strongly encourage all female architects to be assertive and speak up for themselves, not just when asked, and to communicate their ideas effectively during the job.
Finally, one of our main goals is to keep advocating for policies and fair regulations that promote gender equality on construction sites and in the architecture industry as a whole. We must persevere until we see a real change. This can be accomplished easily by introducing policies that require gender diversity in hiring and by assigning more female entrepreneurs to the work environment, not to mention providing the men in the field with training on gender equality.
By working to accomplish these five goals, we can create more equitable conditions that help empower female architects and equip them to become phenomenal, strong, and powerful young leaders in the future.

As a community, we will start to see an amazing change once these tools and goals are incorporated into our daily work routine and life in general. We will hear voices that had been hidden for too long, feeling undervalued, not powerful enough, and not important enough, because of a domineering beast – the male constituency that never fully supported or fully appreciated female figures, especially in jobs that are considered “tough.” This being said, we cannot deny that there are incredibly supportive males in this field, men who encourage and empower women and who should be role models to others.
We need to end male domination in certain fields. I ask myself and my community: How and why are we still fighting and advocating for our basic rights as women in the workforce, and when will we take a step forward?
Article photos are courtesy of the author.

  • Georgina Abboud, an architectural designer at 2XĀ Architecture and Interior Design boutique firm in Jerusalem, is involved with high-end local and international projects. For years, Georgina was an architectural mentor to young, underprivileged girls in the United States, working through the American Association of Architects, AIA. She is now a mentor to young women in East Jerusalem.

1 Comment

  1. Rami Meo

    Amazing article. Thank you. My daughter who minored in architecture and majored in engineering also faced in Sydney some of the discriminatory working issues mentioned in the article. Male dominance in this sector also prevails here, Downunder. The five proposed solutions noted in the article are brilliant.
    Whether in construction or in other fields, Palestinian women must be availed the opportunities to join the workforce. This will provide them freedom on a multitude of levels.

    Thank you

    Rami Meo


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