Work Women – inspiring women in construction and design

WOWO (Work Women) is hosting a series of free, hands-on making workshops this summer open to all young women in East London aged 14-21. Starting on the 27th July, the first workshop will introduce young women to metalsmithing which will take place at Blackhorse Workshop.  Led by a group of inspiring female mentors, the series of workshops will also cover electrics, coding, engineering and carpentry. The work produced at the workshops will then form part of an collaborative exhibition at WOWOspace later in the year.

We spoke to Kerry Edwards and Anna Webster of Orkidstudio, the humanitarian architecture and construction practice based in Nairobi which focuses on empowering and creating opportunities for women on construction programmes in East Africa, like the upcoming Women in Construction based in Kenya.  Continuing with the same ethos, the series of workshops hopes to achieve similar results in East London with the hope of building networks and connections between the two projects.

‘Working with Orkidstudio, we have always made it our aim to create opportunities for women through mentoring, training and employment. Orkidstudio has recently set up a permanent base in Nairobi to optimise our impact in East Africa by building long lasting relationships with the local communities we work with in Kenya and Zambia. Anna and I both live in Tower Hamlets and Hackney, and while we are keen to get involved with what’s happening in Nairobi however and whenever we can, we want to build upon what we’ve learned with Orkidstudio to work with young women in our local community.  We think there will be some really exciting opportunities to build networks and connections between the two projects and to share and learn from each other’

WOWO will focus on trades and other male dominated workplaces within the design and construction industry. Industries that women in the UK are greatly under-represented in as Kerry explains, ‘As well as the obvious issues around gender stereotyping, we feel that one of the biggest reasons for this is the negative perception young women have of working in built environment professions. As a result, our primary goal is to disrupt boundaries and engage women in discovering potential opportunities for a career in design and construction.

‘We want to find out what is the most effective way to support and bring out the best in the young women we are working with. This is something we have thought about a lot and we definitely don’t want to exclude men from the conversation, but we’ve had a number of discussions with people working in education and youth work and we feel the young women might respond more positively in a women only environment, at least initially.’

By focusing on these specifically male-dominated trades they hope to widen potential career opportunities for the young people they are working with.

‘We are looking to potentially include skills training workshops on plumbing, stone masonry, furniture making and digital fabrication further down the line and we are open to other suggestions.’

Creative blacksmiths Felicity Jones and Frances Plowden will teach a number of different metal working techniques allowing participants to design and make their own piece as part of a collective work to be exhibited later in the year. We think this is a fantastic initiative and look forward to welcoming the team to Blackhorse.

Book your space on the course here.