08 Mar 2023
“To mark International Women’s Day and Women in Construction Week, I’ve been asked if I’d like to write a blog.
As a woman that’s worked in the construction sector my whole career – over 30 years and counting – I thought it might help other women thinking of following less traditional job roles, and following their interests rather than convention (or in my case, the advice of the careers teacher to seek work linked to childcare, which I can only imagine came from me being the youngest of six siblings that regularly babysat for a large contingent of nieces and nephews).
Construction as an industry offers many very different job opportunities – a few of which I have experienced over the years. I now work for United Welsh as an Executive Director responsible for Development, Assets and Sustainability. I love my job and feel privileged to work in a sector that makes a difference in the lives of so many people. Aside from the outcomes of my work (such as providing homes that are safe, warm and affordable for people), one of the best aspects of the role is just how diverse each day is – from discussing constraints and opportunities of new development sites to considering how we can reduce our carbon footprint, to listening to our customers about how we can improve what we do.
I started working in ‘the built environment’ immediately after leaving school at 16. With a handful of ‘O’ levels (this is where the Gen Z’s say, “what’s that?!”) and no desire to stay in full-time education, I was lucky enough to fall into a trainee role within an architecture practice. The job provided a mix of creativity and technicality that suited me perfectly. My first boss Paul didn’t stereotype me, which was unusual back in the 1980s. He was also one of the first adults that helped me to believe in myself. Architecture as a field wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be, but the variety of roles in the wider industry together with a belief that being a woman wasn’t a limiting factor, allowed me to find my real passion for development but also for people management. It’s been a long journey and difficult at times, especially as all my study for my academic and professional qualifications were gained whilst also working. There have also been many times when I’ve been excluded and/or judged as a result of my gender, although I am very happy to be able to say that the industry has improved dramatically in terms of equality. There is still a long way to go though, particularly for some roles.
I would love to see more promotion of construction as a rewarding career in schools and colleges, particularly with an emphasis on making it more accessible to women. There are many fields that are still heavily male-dominated, both as professionals and skilled tradespersons. Employers could also do more to help people understand opportunities when considering new careers or for those to diversify from existing ones.
If you’re imaginative and have a passion for problem-solving then construction is a great field to work in – and if that sounds like something you’d like to get involved in, then being a woman should not be a barrier.”