May 29, 2015, by Laura Estrop
Inspiring Women, Building Britain
By Chris Jones, Senior Careers Adviser – Faculties of Science and Engineering
Are you a female student? Are you interested in working in a people industry that requires creativity and the ability to communicate and collaborate with others? Do you want to join an industry that makes a difference to society and have the opportunity to work on national and global projects? If so, have you thought about a career in the construction sector?
If you haven’t, you’re not alone. Despite the best efforts of the industry, the proportion of women working in the construction sector remains stubbornly low, with only around 11% of the workforce being female.
As part of their attempt to address this imbalance, Taylor Woodrow organised an event at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London in May entitled ‘Inspiring Women, Building Britain’. With the tagline “dream big, achieve more”, this was an event designed to inspire women about the range of opportunities available within the sector.
The event started with presentations from three senior women in the construction and infrastructure industry followed by a chance to network and talk to female employees of Taylor Woodrow. There were some great insights into the speakers’ career journeys, below is an overview of their journeys and examples of how interesting this sector can be.
The first speaker was Emma McNab, Business Excellence Manager at Taylor Woodrow
Emma had a passion and interest in construction from an early point in her career and studied Civil Engineering at University. She has progressed from a graduate engineer to a Business Excellence Manager and has been involved in a range of really exciting construction projects along the way. She emphasised the need for creative people with good communication skills as well as those with more traditional technical skills in the industry. She highlighted some of the key words to describe her career in the sector: fun, challenging, creative, unbelievable, technical and finally the great feeling of being able to say “I built that!” A great example and inspiration to all of our current female (and male) civil engineering students!
The second speaker was Ann Collins, Managing Director of Conren Ltd (part of Vinci Plc)
Ann started her career as a secretary and progressed to working as a Sales Administrative Manager for Conren, who produce and install specialist floor products. She has progressed through the company to Brand Manager and then Business Development Director and is now Managing Director. Ann’s career progression is a great reminder of the wider opportunities and progression routes available with administrative, management, financial, sales and other business support roles.
The final speaker was Beth West, Commercial Director for HS2
Beth grew up in Detroit and studied Politics which led her to an interest in economic development in developing countries and to a subsequent career in project finance for infrastructure projects. After working for Transport for London in Corporate Finance and Commercial Procurement, Beth is now Commercial Director for HS2 which will be a huge project expecting to employ up to 34,000 people at its peak. As someone again with a politics background, Beth’s message to those looking for a career where they can make a difference and contribute to society is that infrastructure is a good career to look at. A lot of the skills really required by the industry today are those that are more traditionally seen as female; collaboration, communication, influencing and so on. She gave an interesting perspective on construction and infrastructure as essentially a people business requiring people skills.
There were plenty of interesting comments from the evening, including:
- “Glass ceilings don’t exist, just a lack of awareness of opportunities”
- “Finding a good mentor in the industry is really important”
- “The advantages of being a woman in an industry still dominated by men? You will be the one person they remember in the room – stand out for the right reasons.”
- “Only 50% of roles in the construction industry are site-based. The industry needs to sell the other roles more – in areas like project management, environment and sustainability”
- “The industry is changing and needs to change further in terms of flexibility – what makes the industry good for women will make it good for everyone”.
Whether you are one of our female students studying a technical degree in the Schools of Civil Engineering or Architecture and the Built Environment or are studying an entirely non-related degree, the message is that there are great opportunities for everyone in the sector. Why not take a look at some of the articles below:
The Guardian – Building bridges for women in the construction industry
Image source: Ignite New Zealand: ‘TechEd_07_Women_012’
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