To mark International Women’s Day, Jackie Biswell, one of the women building our future in the construction industry, explains why females can plug the skills gap and enhance the sector.

Hidden away in the small print of a government report on employment in 2016, you’ll find a note that tells you everything you need to know about women in construction.

In June 2016, there were so few female workers in the industry that for many of the individual building trades the government was unable to even provide an estimate as to how many there were. Roofing was one of these.

Well, despite the lack of available data, I am one of the women working in this world. A world that is heavily dominated by men.

I set up Apex Roofing in October 2012 as a leading provider of roofing solutions for the commercial, education and public sector markets.

My role involves overseeing and running the business, running sites and projects and mentoring and training a new generation of roofers.

And I have worked hard to develop the business from small start-up to become a well-respected company with high turnover and national contracts.

It’s not all been plain sailing.

I had a huge battle in the early days to be accepted as credible by my industry peers and potential clients – and a lot of that has been to do with my gender.

But my hard work, dedication and commitment has spoken volumes and I believe my perseverance is helping pave the way for other women in construction.

This is especially important when you consider the construction skills gap and its knock-on effect on labour. Never has encouraging new talent into the field been more important.

I work as a key influencer and organiser of the Ladies in Property Suffolk Networking group – set up by women in Suffolk to bring together women in the construction, land, property and facilities sector for peer-to-peer support, friendships and course business development.

The role of the LiPS group is to provide regular networking events, and to promote roles in the industry to young females.

It’s paying off as locally and nationally, more money and time is being placed into educating young people about the industry and the range of careers available – especially young women – who have not seen the industry as an attractive place to begin a career.

We have to continue to lead by example and be ambassadors for women in the construction industry.

After all, for as long as government research on the number of women in construction and building trades are “too small for a reliable estimate”, the industry needs to fight to address the gender imbalance.