Women in Construction in London: Sasha

A series of portraits of fellow women in construction in celebration of the Women in Construction Summit in London

Sasha is a young woman, shy and polite. I know her from a construction site, and still it’s difficult to picture her in the midst of all that rubble, noise, dust and mess. So I expect tales of struggle and frustration from her experience on the job.

“I never felt discriminated because I am a woman” she surprises me instead “I am very young and I feel it’s more my age that makes people think I might not be competent yet”.

How it all started

Aliaksandra (Sasha) Kharlan studied Interior Architecture in London and keeps working on her education and qualifications. She works with her father in Kharlan Construction and she feels she’s always known buildings and how they work.

She’s from Belarus and feels that her home country and upbringing was the first challenge for her. “My grandmother did not want me to work in construction, it’s a man’s job, she said”.

Women in Construction Portraits - Sasha
Photo credit to Alessandra Fraissinet

A woman on the job

Starting from there, she’s always felt that being a woman was more a challenge than an impediment; “It made me work harder for what I want to do”.

Sasha says she never really experienced sexism at work. She uses her technical knowledge and language to set things straight from the beginning and she’s always managed to earn the trust of co-workers and clients.

The only time she felt people were treating her differently because she is a woman was when she did building works at her own place. “Workers would never listen to me and always waited for instructions from my husband” she remembers “but he doesn’t have a clue about construction!”.

It’s one of the few moments in our conversation when she lets her frustration get through.

It’s a brand new generation

“New generations are more open, and internet and social media have a big role in opening people to different worlds and new ways of thinking”.

This is also how she contributes to the cause, sharing her experience with as many people as possible, telling her story, posting pictures of herself at work. “If someone gives me a pink helmet when I enter a construction site, well… why not? We shouldn’t overthink and see sexism everywhere!”

Sasha thinks that policies that enforce diversity and representation are a good thing, because there is no better route to equality than proving how good women are on the job.

“Men must get used to work side by side with women; once they see by themselves that their bias makes no sense, things will start to change”.

At first I am skeptical; of course there is a lot that Sasha has not experienced yet and probably she’ll change her mind along the way.

But while we say goodbye I realise Sasha is fierce and strong and knows what she wants. And maybe she is right, things are changing faster than we, the older generation, are able to understand.

Women in Construction in London 2019 - Speakers

We’re excited to be supporting Women in Construction Summit 2019 on the 16th May in London – brought by creators of the Women in Construction World Series.

Use our exclusive discount code HOUSEUP15 and get 15% off tickets for Europe’s largest women in construction event!