Historically, construction has been a male dominated environment, but the industry is becoming increasingly inclusive, with more women rising to leadership roles. So, what difference do women make in construction?
51% of the UK population is female but data from the Office for National Statistics suggests that at the end of 2016 only 13% of the construction industry workforce identified themselves as female. This may be partly due to the lack of women entering STEM fields but may also be down to unconscious bias within the industry and lack of information regarding the types of roles that are available within construction. The growing number of positive role models and female ambassadors within the industry is helping to encourage women to consider whether their talents and ideas can help move the industry forward.
One such role model is Alice Poole of Alice Poole Architects who is a finalist in the National Building Awards (NBA) 2019 for the Award for Women in Construction. Alice Poole Architects are also finalists in the 2019 NBA Awards for Architectural Designer of the Year and Architectural Practice of the Year.
Another great role model is Julie Cassar of Preservation Treatment (Surrey) Ltd who was recently nominated for the Surrey Heath Star of the Year Award and in 2013 led the company to achieve the prestigious Property Care Association (PCA) Contractor of the Year Award. Julie is also a member of the Women of Waterproofing network.
How did you come to work in Construction?
I was extremely lucky that I started working for a remedial company in Suffolk when I was 20 years old. I was initially employed as a typist, which involved typing up the survey reports and arranging survey appointments etc. The scope of works at that time, especially as a lot of properties in Suffolk / Essex were timber framed, was predominately timber treatments and we carried out a lot of timber replacements and carpentry work, which was very interesting. To learn more about the job technically I started to go out on surveys with some of the Surveyors and shortly after became the Contracts Manager for the company.
As the Managing Director became Chairman of the then British Wood Preserving Association, (as it was known at that time), we became heavily involved in meetings, visits etc., and my technical knowledge and ability of the industry expanded, and so did my interest.
What does your role as Operations Director involve?
A large part of the role is to oversee that everything is running smoothly, and all staff are actively engaged in their roles. Health and Safety and HR is of course a large part of the role together with the safety of all staff, together with clients/customers. Training is an ongoing role each day not just on health and safety, but technical matters as the works which have evolved over the years require a great deal of technical understanding from specifications/plans and details on engineering/architects/ground works/structural matters, etc.
What do you enjoy most about your current role?
No two days are in the same, as we are dealing with different types of property and construction and of course problems i.e. from a flooded basement, to a Listed Property suffering from Death Watch Beetle. Interaction with clients/customers is key to ensure smooth running and organisational skills are paramount with the ability to trouble shoot!
What advice would you give to women considering a career in Construction?
There is so much diversity and so many opportunities within the construction industry these days with more scope for women to progress through to senior management. Seriously consider a career in construction!