Let’s all choose to challenge.

This International Women’s Day, we wanted to use our platform to showcase and celebrate voices of change in some of the organisations we work with – representatives in the construction industry who choose to challenge. These individuals have raised their hand to show their support and solidarity in addressing the gender imbalance in our industry. They include role models, trailblazers and allies; we thank them for working with us to support more women into construction.

Lisa Trainor
Quality and Environmental Manager

Portview Fit-Out

Lisa achieved a BSc Hons Degree in Construction Engineering and Management at University. When she initially graduated, the country was still recovering from the recession and graduate posts were quite hard to come by, so Lisa took a contracts administrative role in a construction company. As the country began to emerge from the recession, a graduate engineering role became available in the company Lisa was working in, so she then went out to site as a trainee site engineer. Lisa worked in this role for approximately a year and a half before progressing into a trainee site manager position, as she enjoyed managing sites. This led to a progression to a site manager, finally progressing into her current role as a Quality and Environmental Manager for interior fit-out specialist, Portview.

How have you chosen to challenge in your career?

I am an advocate for woman in construction and always try and push women to the forefront when the opportunity arises. This could be by giving advice to woman starting their career in construction right through to supporting them in their roles. I find that women are sometimes afraid to speak out in certain situations, so I would always advise them to know their job and be confident in their skills, role and most importantly, in themselves.

One memory that really sticks out to me, was when I was presenting to a primary school as part of the Considerate Constructors Scheme a few years ago. A little girl raised her hand and asked ‘Miss, so you’re telling me you’re the chief of all the men on that site?’. That made me in one way quite sad, as even at that age she felt like she couldn’t manage a construction site, but on the other-hand, I was glad I could tell her that ‘yes, you can. You can do anything you want including working in construction, whether it be in an office, as a construction manager, engineer, architect or within a trade.’

From graduating to now, there has been a sizeable shift in the amount of women I see on site, which is such a positive thing and I hope it continues to grow. If anything, it is a very exciting time to be a woman in construction, to champion gender equality and be part of a movement that will pave the way for future generations.

Portview are now a platinum member of WIC and will be offering apprenticeships to its members and offer free career advice. We intend to hold an event in April in partnership with WIC, which I and a number of my female colleagues will be speaking at.

‘Knowledge is power, be the best version of yourself and be confident in your own ability’ 

Brooke Parsons
Danny Sullivan Group

Corporate Social Responsibility Manager

Working within the charity sector as a Fundraising Manager, Brooke had a corporate partnership with Danny Sullivan Group, who had raised over £100,000 for The National Brain Appeal. Working closely with their team and through building strong relationships, Brooke decided to apply for their CSR Manager position, as she wanted to join the industry to assist in leaving a lasting legacy in the communities we work in.

How have you chosen to challenge in your career?

I recently decided to organise and lead the delivery of the industry’s first ‘Girls Only’ Virtual Work Experience. 30 young women, aged 15-17, participated in a week-long work experience programme, with workshops led by women in the industry, including two engineers; Hayley Jackson and Francesca Oliver, SCS EDI Advisor, Laura Roche and DSG Head of Client Relations and Business Development, Eibhlin Flynn. Throughout the week we challenged the industry’s stereotypes, talked about opportunities and career pathways and encouraged these young women to be confident in entering a male dominated sector.

I have recently worked with Women into Construction by participating in speed interviews and offering work placements to women considering a career in construction and have become a virtual WiC mentor.

“Be brave, lead by example and be confident in your ability, knowledge and experience”.

Monica Ackermann
Cost Manager

Canary Wharf Contractors

Having enjoyed Maths and after seeing a university booklet that showed construction as a good field for people good at Maths, Monica decided to sign up to the degree and see how it went! After her first year of university, Monica looked for an internship to complete along side her degree so she could get a feel for the role – she enjoyed it, particularly the practicality and challenge of the role.

How have you chosen to challenge in your career?

After a few years of working as a Junior in my first job, I started becoming a mentor for new junior females in the role to give them a better understanding of the construction field and how to overcome the challenges (similar to ones I experienced when I first entered the industry) and to help them succeed in the industry.

‘Don’t let the fear of striking out, stop you from playing the game’

Bev Williams
Sales, Marketing & Framework Director

Willmott Dixon Interiors

After working in sales across various sectors from flour milling to industrial vacuum systems and working for organisations such as Britvic & Harrow Green Removals, Bev fell into construction when she was headhunted to work as a telesales manager for a large construction company.

Bev has now worked for Willmott Dixon Interiors for almost 10 years but has been in the industry since 1997, working for Overbury & MITIE Interiors which has resulted in “a ‘few’ grey hairs and a thick address book”.

How have you chosen to challenge in your career?

I am an active member of the Willmott Dixon Women’s Leaders network, which came together to develop a strong pipeline of Willmott Dixon future female leaders and encourage more females into our sector.

Five core ideas were discussed – one being a women’s leadership programme; to develop our future female leaders’ mindset, confidence, capabilities and resilience and support through mentoring. I am so delighted to say after approval of our funding application to the CITB it is now a reality. Having actively sponsored the application I am therefore very passionate about the programme & the benefit to female leadership development.  For me it’s about being the best leader no matter the gender.

As part of this programme I have undergone mentor training which was so worthwhile & hope to be a professional and trusted supporter of my mentee.

I have previously mentored a few females most recently a candidate from our Welcome Back programme.  I found this very fulfilling and was delighted when we offered her a well-deserved full time position with us as an assistant build manager on a large university project in South London.

I was also awarded the Inspire Mentor of the Year award in 2018.

“I am happy with my own brand, are you?”

Carole Ditty
Legal Director

Bouygues UK Limited

Carole studied English and French Law at University before working as a trainee solicitor in a London law firm. As part of her training, Carole had the opportunity to spend six months working in a construction law team, which is where she realised her future career progression. Carole had been amazed by the wide variety of projects and felt a strong sense of pride in being part of a team that brought buildings and developments to life.

How have you chosen to challenge in your career?

When I became the Legal Director of Bouygues UK in 2012, I was the first and only female Legal Director within the wider Bouygues Construction Group.  I was very aware of my responsibility to act as a role model for all my female colleagues, both in the UK and the wider Bouygues Construction community.

I am also a mum and I want my daughter to grow up knowing that anything is possible, with hard work, determination and self-belief.

I have sought to encourage other women in my team and across the business to believe in themselves and their ability to progress and to secure leadership positions, if that is what they want to achieve.  It’s important to recognise that females have a strong voice and much value to add, in what is still a male dominated industry.  Evidence clearly shows that the more diverse and inclusive we are as companies and as an industry, the more successful we will be.

I’m proud to see that the number of women progressing to senior management positions within Bouygues  has increased over the past few years – there’s still more work to be done but we are making progress and we are making a real, positive difference.

Bouygues have continued to work with Women in Construction most recently with Virtual Mentoring Programme which we have supported four women over 4 weeks each candidate either via phone or TEAMS to support them in their career journey.

“Believe in yourself and never be afraid to speak up and ask questions”

Liam Kelly
Project Manager

Hill Group UK

Liam started in the industry straight from completing his A levels in Art and Design, Design Technology and Sociology. Liam was a pilot for what was eventually a very successful management programme with Mount Anvil Construction, completing his ONC and then HNC at London Southbank University’s faculty of the Built Environment. Before joining this management trainee programme, Liam had no previous experience within the industry. However, he had some management experience working in McDonald’s, a position he maintained during the 1st year of his management programme, working there at night and on-site during the day. Liam credits his mother for his inherited work ethic and praises the transferrable skills, such as teamwork and customer assurance, that he gained outside of construction which are now critical to his current position as a Project Manager for the 5-star housebuilder, Hill.

How have you chosen to challenge in your career?

It’s hard to pinpoint examples of this, I believe if I can get to where I have then with the right support, encouragement and attitude anybody can. Since working for Hill and seeing the clear omission of prejudice in all their appointments I feel at home with a likeminded employer that shares my values on equality. I have recently appointed a female site manager to start as an apprentice and for myself to mentor. This apprentice would not, ordinarily, have the confidence to move into a historically male orientated industry and specifically site management. The candidate came to us through Women into Construction’s London Division for a 2-week work placement, it was clear that she had the qualities to succeed. It took a little convincing, but we managed to support her into starting as an apprentice. Six months in now and it was totally the correct decision, her confidence is sky high and her skills and knowledge are improving daily.

I’d almost say I’m the unofficial WiC ‘Champion’ for the Special Projects region at Hill. Having placed seven women on my own scheme, I have now been actively involved in supporting WiC to place candidates into all sites within our region. Following the success in the Cambridge Investment Partnerships region with WiC, this, with the support of the Directors, is becoming a positive benchmark for not just the rest of the company, but much of the industry, especially in these testing and uncertain times.

“We live in a wonderful, colourful, inclusive society. A society that has taken a very long time to improve standards for equality, far too long.

I ‘Choose To Challenge’, to ensure that by the time my three daughters are at an age to choose their career, something as irrelevant as their gender will not stop them from having the confidence and opportunity to do it!”

Fahmeda Salik
Installations Admin

K&T Heating

Now working at K&T Heating as a senior member of their installations team, Fahmeda started her pathway into construction as an Apprentice in Bid Admin. During her progression, Fahmeda has continued to support those coming through.

How have you chosen to challenge in your career?

As I progressed from my role as Apprentice Bid Admin to Pre Construction Support, I managed the new Apprentice, where I provided training and support in every way required. I ensured the apprentice saw me as a mentor and felt comfortable to ask me any questions she may have had about her role.

At K&T Heating I have worked in many roles, including the Commercial, Electrical and Installations department to help me get a better understanding in all aspects of the business. I now have the experience to help out within any of the departments as and when I am needed. In my 5 years at K&T heating, I have worked myself up to a senior member of the Installations team, allowing me to train and guide new starters, teaching them from the experience that I have gained.

“Challenge everything, it’s the only path that leads to growth”

Rachel Briggs
Intermediate Quantity Surveyor

Galliard Homes

Having left school at 18 with A-levels, Rachel was unsure of which career path to take so started an admin role for a flooring subcontractor to fund her ‘gap year’ – and the rest is history. Rachel worked in various departments within the business until she found the Commercial Department, which she enjoyed and excelled in. Shortly after, Rachel made the decision to enrol in a six year part-time Quantity Surveying degree at Oxford Brookes University. Rachel then moved from her job in subcontracting to work in construction for a property developer, Galliard Homes. Now, in the fifth year of her part-time study (and full-time work!) the end of the degree is in sight.

How have you chosen to challenge in your career?

It is an important part of every day life to hold people to account where possible and encourage questioning of stereotypes and bias ‘norms’. I recently challenged a manager on site about his dismissive attitude towards youthful employees and females in contruction. His belief was the only way to aquire knowledge was to have had first hand experience of and ‘sufficient time on the tools’. I highlighted that this view was outdated and there are now many more ways to enter the industry, including from higher education, and many more women are entering the industry in both a trade and management capacity.

“Be the change you want to see.” Mahatma Ghandi

Mark Atkinson
Finance Director

Morgan Sindall Infrastructure

Mark is the Finance Director for Morgan Sindall Infrastructure. He moved into the industry to support the journey to improve peoples lives in our global society, driving improvements in critical national infrastructure. Mark is a passionate believer that with smart solutions, we can challenge the status quo, and if we embed technology-led solutions, we can deliver game-changing outcomes for customers and ourselves.

How have you chosen to challenge in your career?

I am a strong believer that inclusion and diversity make us more innovative, and our curiosity will drive better solutions. It’s really important we don’t just focus on what we do, but to challenge how we go about it. If you are determined to make change happen, you need to embed diversity in your teams to challenge what we do every day, and our goal has to be that our team reflects society.

We have to think about how we attract new female talent into our industry and how we make our industry attractive to society. The small things make a real difference. Do we offer flexible benefits? Do we truly offer flexible working? Are we family-friendly? Are we driving our recruitment with a quota or helping make our industry attractive to school leavers and supporting universities to bring diversity into their talent pool? Do we have diverse shortlists and take steps to recognise our unconscious bias? This all starts with the tone from the top and the leadership shadow we play on an organisation.

I am a mentor to a diverse range of individuals, background, ethnicity, gender, age and from different technical backgrounds. I find this a valuable two-way process, challenging, developing and reinventing the decisions I make every day.

In recruitment, I am keen to recruit talent outside of our industry to bring new ways of thinking to challenge the status quo.

“It’s really important we don’t just focus on what we do, but how we go about it. At the heart of what we do is our people; I choose to challenge because diversity and inclusion have an enormous impact on business’s ability to challenge the status quo, drive innovation, and achieve improved results.”