When building schools aspire for women

Union Strength is a European journalism competition organized by Slate.fr in partnership with the European Commission. Forty French and European journalists have been selected to work as a team to write articles on EU-funded projects in Europe. A perspective on what the EU can do in its regions.

In Roubaix (France).

On his desktop computer, pictures of young women in business clothes are scrolled. “Hey, we call her Barbie. She had long blonde hair and pink nails.points to Émilie Gaeremynck, a consultant at the Training Center for Building Trade Trainees (BTP CFA) in Lille Metropole, in Roubaix (North), who joined the European project Women Can Build funded by the Erasmus+ program in 2017. But they all played the game.Remember the person who accompanies the students on their journey.

In January 2020, a group of young girls struggling to enter the job market discovered construction professions. A project with a dual goal: to enable them to find a profession and at the same time dismantle stereotypes about women in construction, which is still considered a male sector.

In 2016, the French Construction Federation had 12% women. Even if this number is on the rise, they represent only 1.6% of the sites workforce. Emily Jeremynk lists employers’ hesitation: “It’s going to be complicated with my comrades.”And the ‘She is less productive than a man’And the “I don’t have the means to invest in separate changing rooms”.

In construction professions, women have always been absent from subscribers. | Rachel Noto and Maria Lipinska

The bell rings and the chancellor gets up from her chair. “But these cliches, I hear them less and less.”notes. At the same time, there are also such chiefs who are looking for women: “We were told that they are more comprehensive, more organized and better at managing customer relationship.”

We have to break the glass ceiling.

In the corridors of the school, trainees receive her. On that day, a few women’s heads were revealed. Not so surprising: “Out of 700 trainees, we have between 25 and 30 girls”, as Emily Geremnik thinks. There are still very few young women who turn to construction training. This is why discovery sessions are so important. Among the dozens of girls who applied in 2020, there are two who registered for CFA at the beginning of the following school year. It’s not much, but it’s a good start!She is excited.

Most of her apprentices are trained as carpenters, plumbers or even roofers. “Hi, we don’t have any construction work yet”Counsellor understands. He adds with a sigh: “We have to break the glass ceiling. It’s still very thick.”

Perched on top of a scaffold more than four meters above the ground, in a country house a few kilometers from the Belgian border, 29-year-old Efrasi Desroise confirms it between two sessions. “I have guys who have taken a long time to get into the construction business, and their parents have frustrated them”explains the young painter, apprentice at Lille Métropole CFA and studying working in the family business, which her grandfather set up in 1968. “I also did not imagine myself in this sector, although I have been swimming there since I was very young”She’s thinking.

Eventually, Euphrasie Desruez discovered her appeal to painting. She will also take over the management of the company when her father retires in a few years. But first, she hopes to have a second child. “I have a physical job and I am exposed to chemicals that are not recommended when you are pregnant. I shouldn’t be late, because when I get to work it will be too late.”are projects.

Euphrasie Desruez never envisioned becoming a house painter, although it is an environment she has been immersed in since she was very young. | Rachel Noto and Maria Lipinska

Euphrasia pulls on her ponytail and takes off her gray polka dot jacket. Finally, the way others view her job doesn’t bother her. When I tell them I am a painter, they often answer me: ‘What kind of paintings do you paint? “Then, when they understand that I am in construction, they are always curious to know more. They often become clients”She says in a malicious voice.

Euphrates Desires is convinced that women have their place in the industry: “Attitudes are changing. More and more people are realizing that the construction industry is suitable for women.” Take for example a former female companion from Lille Métropole CFA, which is now integrated into the job market.

Finally feel at home

The loud noise of the saw-shape reverberates in this Lille workshop, as wood dust swirls around. Some cling to the black shirt of their user. Clemens Levine, 32 and a former CFA intern, was employed for eight months at this furniture manufacturer. At the moment, she is making wooden tables reinforced with dividers.

“I’ve learned to carry like a man!”, announces carpenter Clemence Levine, former intern at Lille Métropole CFA. | Rachel Noto and Maria Lipinska

The carpenter lowers his hard hat over her neck, then grabs the measuring tape attached to her denim shorts to take the measurements. With a satisfied expression, she raises the plank: “I learned to carry like a man! By putting materials aside. Sometimes you can lift up to 100 kilos! So now I don’t wonder if I’ll do it or not, I just do it.”, grows a young woman with short hair. In this team of eight, Clemence Levine was not the only woman: two more work in the sewing workshop and one of the colleagues takes the orders.

If she succeeds in her activism, it is because Clémence Lieven took care of him after completing her CFA training in 2018. “During an interview, the recruiter insisted that I go to the secretariat. Back when I was visiting the warehouse, I saw posters with naked women on them. I didn’t want to work with people who talked about women like they were meat. Either way, I didn’t respond.”

“I’m the only one in the team with a diploma who uses the saw format”She leaves without any arrogance in her voice. Clemence remembers her first day at school. “As soon as I entered the workshop, I felt at home”She says with a slight smile.

However, Clémence has come a long way before turning to training for construction professions. I was paid to do general studies. I spent five years studying communication and media. Until I moved into my first apartment. I wanted to make furniture myself, and that was the motive », she explains while removing the splinter from her finger. Although her days have been tough, Clemence loves her job. “I regret spending so much time in general studies. But I have found my way now.”She says, before she goes back to her gadget.

This article was produced as part of the Union is a power competition that has received financial support from the European Union. The article reflects the views of its author and the European Commission cannot be held responsible for its content or use.

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