Five Rising Female Talents To Watch In The Property And Construction Industry
From Architects, Engineers to Project Managers there are many jobs within the Property and Construction industry, and whilst the industry employs 3 million people in the UK only 13% of these workers are female. Despite being considered a heavily male dominated industry, the rate of women embarking on careers in Construction is growing.
To mark International Women’s Day 2019, Blayze Group interviewed five talented and inspirational women in the industry who you really should know about:
Michelle Richardson, Senior Project Manager at Property Alliance Group
Michelle has been working in Construction for 17 years and started in the industry by undertaking a degree in Architecture. She however pursued a Post Grad Diploma in Project Management, all whilst working full-time as an Assistant Project Manager for Arcadis (formally AYH plc).
After Arcadis, Michelle worked for the likes of Mace Group and Deloitte Real Estate (where she earned herself the job title of Technical Director). She is now a Senior Project Manager at Property Alliance Group. Throughout the course of her career, Michelle has often been the only female Project Manager in her team but is incredibly determined and feels completely comfortable in this industry.
Michelle was immersed in this industry from a young age, her Dad is a builder and she states that he is the inspiration for her chosen career path. She also credits having positive female role models early in her career, such as Sarah Woffenden who she met whilst working at Arcadis. She says “it is so important for teachers, careers advisers and working professionals to show young women that they can succeed in traditionally male disciplines as well.”
With only 20% of women accounting for the overall Construction workforce, Michelle mentors young people through guiding them to improve their industry knowledge and gather site experience. She is a Business Enterprise Advisor for St Patrick’s High School in Salford and hopes that through this mentoring she is able to support and encourage confidence within young people to choose careers within Construction.
Kal Gill-Faci, Director at APH Architects Limited and Head of Corporate Engagement at Pledge.
Before joining APH Architects Limited as a Director this year, Kal Gill-Faci had worked for the likes of Levitt Bernstein and Austin Smith Lord, she has survived two financial crises and has a passion in ending rough sleeping and working on projects with a high degree of social consciousness and philanthropy.
Kal has worked in teams with a 50/50 gender split during her career over the past 22 years and encourages more women to work in the industry. She believes the industry as a whole, including educational institutions need to do more to encourage women as only 10% of women hold the highest-ranking jobs at leading Architectural firms.
One way Kal is helping to overcome this issue is through her involvement with Women in Property North West. As a board member, Kal has organised networking events to attract, celebrate and progress talented female Architects. In addition, their mentoring programme is aimed at younger women to help guide them in their careers paths within the industry.
Kal also hosts talks and workshops at local schools once a quarter to help encourage girls aged 14 to 16 enter the field. She truly believes that there is no difference between females and males in terms of skills and added value they bring to a project and that it’s just a matter of encouraging women to start this kind of career.
She credits her success to getting involved with Pledge and the Manchester Homelessness Partnership. The part of her role which she loves is the ability to create a lasting social impact – her personal and professional goal is to help break the cycle of homelessness. She describes the ability to connect and rally like-minded individuals, alongside her chosen career in the Property industry has resulted in her being uniquely placed to make positive social change in the industry.
Loretta Lipworth, Design Management Trainee at Willmott Dixon
Loretta has been working in the sector since March 2016, where she joined Balfour Beatty as a Site Administrator with a view to specialising in Design, and is now a Design Management Trainee at Willmott Dixon. She is also the winner of two awards and shortlisted for one national emerging talent awards.
Before working in Construction, Loretta had worked in the film and TV industry after studying for a degree in Theatre Design and master’s in Design. Her career change was fuelled by a desire to work on projects of a really large scale and a passion to build something that remains a part of history.
Gender diversity in the construction industry is shockingly poor with women making up just 13% of the entire workforce and Loretta stated that she encountered many barriers to entering the industry. She describes herself as a ‘career-changer’ and her then lack of experience alongside her gender hindered her, yet she refused to let this affect her chosen career path.
With the help of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), attending industry-specific events and funding her own Health & Safety training, Loretta began to triumph. She is now National Deputy Chair for the NAWIC National Committee and was one of the founding members of the north-west division. She is inspired by all the wonderful work within NAWIC, for example the London & SE region’s “Image of Women in Construction” in collaboration with photographer Morley Von Sternberg. The project aims to provide an insight into the women working across the industry in many different roles resulting in over 150 different women being photographed.
Loretta is proud to work at Willmott Dixon, a company whose values align with her own. They have set a target to have a 50/50 gender split all the way from Management and Trainee level (currently at 38%) through to senior grades and Director level by 2030.
She states that if you want to make it in the industry “Be bold – reach out to people (on LinkedIn for example), attend industry events and get networking! If you see yourself in a certain place in 10 years’ time, go for it and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Laura Harty, HR Director at Paragon Building Consultancy
Laura’s position as HR Director at Paragon Building Consultancy means she that is uniquely placed to tackle the issue of gender diversity within the Property and Construction industry.
Laura believes a cross-cultural mix of experiences is one of the most powerful tools the sector can benefit from, in order to move towards better results and goals. For instance, a report by McKinsey & Company stated that companies with a higher proportion of women in senior roles were 15% more likely to experience above-average profitability.
In 2015, Laura joined Paragon and was 1 out of 8 females within the business, which equated to 15% of their headcount at the time. Then new to the industry, Laura was surprised by the lack of diversity. In four years, Laura was promoted to Director and has introduced various schemes resulting in Paragon now hiring 47 women, making up 27% of their staff. She credits the Equality Diversity Inclusion Group, who meet quarterly, and the significant investment Paragon has made into the personal development of its female team members, as key factors for this figure having almost proportionately doubled in the last four years.
Laura works tirelessly to ensure that more women are recruited at all levels where skill sets allow at Paragon. She is currently working on a project involving four inner-city schools in London, showing young people the kind of jobs that are on offer in the market and how to overcome barriers to entry of the Property industry.
Her advice is “don’t think you need to be something you’re not, be your authentic self. As a woman you bring different skills to the industry and that is something which should be celebrated.”
Gemma Price, Head of Property Management, urbanbubble
Before joining urbanbubble as Head of Property 6 months ago, Gemma was a Director at Recom Solutions Ltd and worked on projects for the University of Manchester and Manchester City Council. Prior to that, she was Head of Property Management at Bruntwood yet started her career there as a General Manager.
Gemma is the mother of two young children and found it difficult to return to work due to a lack of flexible working policies across the Construction industry. She believes this is due to a lack of women working in the industry as a whole, resulting in a lack of awareness and options for working parents.
Whilst flexible hours may not be readily available and accommodated by the majority of construction firms, attitudes are changing. Gemma says “in the past we may have been seen as being less committed, but that’s not the case. Our child is now our second job, but that doesn’t mean we take the first one any less seriously, we just can’t stay in the office as late anymore.”
Gemma believes that the lack of women working in construction is due to the issues surrounding childcare. She states that urbanbubble is the polar opposite from the norm, as 5 females occupy 8 positions on the board. She is proud to be part of a company whose values align with her own as well as the satisfaction she gets out of her day job.
For now, she believes there is a need for more flexible working policies to encourage women into the industry.