Beating gender expectations
Working as an architectural technologist in Saudi Arabia, Solent University graduate Sarah Al Nashwan is getting used to being an unusual sight, often being the only woman on building sites wearing a hard hat and a hijab.
Working as an architectural technologist in Saudi Arabia, graduate Sarah Al Nashwan is getting used to being an unusual sight, often being the only woman on building sites wearing a hard hat and a hijab.
Sarah came to Solent as an international student from Saudi, and graduated in 2017 with a first in BA (Hons) Architectural Technology. We caught up with her about her career so far.
What made you choose to study at Solent?
I’ve always wanted to study architecture and when I decided to study in the UK I had a list of all the courses I would apply for. When I compared these I found that Solent’s course had everything I was looking for.
Architectural technology is not very popular in Saudi Arabia so when I read about it I made my decision to study at Solent because of the course, and of course the amazing city!
What was the most useful thing you learnt from the course?
Everything! The group work made me a more confident person; it actually changed my personality when working with other people, and of course being able to design projects and solve problems independently made me rely on myself in terms of problem solving and meeting a deadline, which is more serious in the workplace when doing real projects.
How did you get the job you’re in now?
I applied to a couple of places that employ female designers and architects, and was surprisingly accepted!
My department specialises in healthcare projects. It’s very challenging work and, in the environment I’m in, a woman wearing a safety helmet going to the site and coming back to the office revising drawings is very unusual. I’m the only woman working in the project management department.
Talk us through your average day.
My workdays vary depending on the projects we’re working on. Sometimes I’m in the office day and night revising drawings, going to meetings with vendors, suppliers and contractors, discussing outcomes with the team, and then having a big meeting with the client to present our work and add comments to the drawings. If needed, I go to the building site with the team.
What are your hopes for the future?
My hopes change every day - I’m learning a lot of new and interesting things. What I really hope is to see more women in construction. This field has always been for men – even in the UK, on my course, I noticed that around 80% were men.
This field is so exciting and interesting, there’s no routine or boredom, and you experience new things everyday, so I really hope we can encourage more women to go into construction, both generally and in my country.
I’d also love to complete my studies by doing a masters in healthcare design.
What have you taken away from your time at Solent?
Solent and the UK has changed me and my beliefs in my abilities. I really look up to my amazing course leader, Sarah Radif. She’s a great role model for any girl who thinks that any course or major is limited to men. We can all be what we want and we can all excel, regardless of our gender or background.