Historically, construction was a tough environment for women to work in. Fortunately, the industry has changed for the better. The current national average of female employees within the construction industry is 14.7%. Walter Lilly is proud to say that we exceed this with 17% of our workforce being women. However, we are eager to see these stats grow and for the industry to continue to improve.
Having a diverse team is fundamental here at Walter Lilly, as this week has highlighted through Women in Construction Week and International Women’s Day. We hope by sharing the stories of some of our determined and passionate women, we can inspire more to consider construction as a potential career path.
Please meet –
Beth Wallis, Bid Coordinator
Erica Denman, Assistant Engineer
Hannah Tyers, Assistant Surveyor
Zena O’Connor, Talent Acquisition Manager
Eve Johnson, Trainee Quantity Surveyor
Concha Martin, Senior Design Manager
Alanna Maxwell, Senior Surveyor
Emma Thurlow, Marketing Coordinator
Katy Ryall, Senior Surveyor
What does your job role entitle?
Concha Martin, Senior Design Manager: Making sure the design information is developed and coordinated so that we can construct it within the agreed programme. I’m the link between the design team, our site team and our subcontractors. My role is very social and this is something I really enjoy. I need to be in contact with different people from different cultural and educational backgrounds and get the best out of all of them.
Emma Thurlow, Marketing Coordinator: I support the marketing functions of Walter Lilly, from organising company events to managing the company’s social media platforms. I also do most of the graphic design work for the company, from designing a company brochure to sketching a wall mural.
How long have you worked in construction and how did you get into the industry?
Hannah Tyers, Assistant Surveyor: 4.5 years. My dad is in the industry and suggested a role in surveying rather than being out on site as a tradeswoman. Initially I was going to go to university full time however, on the open day I saw Walter Lilly was a sponsoring company and offered a day-release degree apprenticeship route. This has allowed me to get valuable work experience at the same time as studying for my degree.
Erica Denman, Engineer: I started in 2004 as a quantity surveyor. I came into the industry by chance, it was never spoken about as a career option at school or university so was never on my radar!
Beth Wallis, Bid Coordinator: I started as a Bid Coordinator at a Social Housing Main Contractor 6 years ago. An opportunity arose in the company’s bid team, and I was put forward for the role. My boss for 4 years was a woman who had worked in the construction industry for almost 35 years! I learnt a lot from her, both about the industry and about being a woman in construction.
What do you enjoy most about working in construction?
Eve Johnson, Trainee Surveyor: I enjoy the hands-on approach and the collaboration between disciplines. I really enjoy learning specialist skills subcontractors provide to Walter Lilly and the process of watching a build unfold. I enjoy overcoming the problems I encounter by using my experience and knowledge. I am treated as a valued member of the team where my thoughts and opinions are heard, even though I’m early on in my career.
Concha Martin, Senior design Manager: What I really enjoy is the process to make an initial idea come to life and the coordination required between all parties to make it happen. Everyone, despite their role, has an important piece of knowledge that is worth listening to. The key is to get everyone into the habit of pulling together into order to achieve a common goal. When the project is a success, all the parties involved feel proud of their work.
Emma Thurlow, Marketing Coordinator: For me, I enjoy the variety of different projects we work on. Although I don’t work on the construction side of the business, I always have a part to play in helping to capture the outstanding work we do. This always keeps me busy and presents me with new challenges and tasks weekly, and I continue to learn something new every day! I also enjoy having the opportunity to visit our impressive sites and see elements of buildings that most people wouldn’t, such as the Palace of Westminster.
Within the construction industry, is there a sense of ‘many paths, one mission’? If so, how?
Katy Ryall, Senior Surveyor: I have met many talented and interesting women from diverse backgrounds and experiences throughout my career. I have no doubt that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ route into the construction industry and I believe the industry is better for it! Often a different perspective which draws from experience unrelated to construction is exactly what is needed to solve a problem.
Zena O’Connor, Talent Acquisition Manager: As I’m in recruitment, I get to witness the variety of roles available across the industry and the different skills required to fulfil them. It is fascinating how every individual’s experience, knowledge and perspective helps to provide a well-rounded team.
Beth Wallis, Bid Coordinator: Absolutely. There are so many different departments in our business that play such an integral role in helping the company continue to grow. Whilst there are the production and site-based roles, there are also the various business function roles which integrates many different talents and skills that keep us moving forward. We are all working to achieve the same goal.
During your time in construction, have you seen an increase in women working within the industry? Why do you think this is?
Katy Ryall, Senior Surveyor: Yes, most definitely. I think the combination of the focus on degrees and apprenticeships being more accessible/advertised specifically to women and having more female role models in the industry has made it more female friendly.
Eve Johnson, Trainee Surveyor: I have not worked in the construction industry for very long, however during my university experience I’ve noticed a decrease in the number of females within the sector due to dropouts and course changes. This has now left 5 females in a cohort of 40. I believe this is largely due to the stereotypes around the industry which creates an unhealthy and somewhat unappealing image of the job. The industry is falsely interpreted, and I believe this is due to the lack of women having an interest in that type of professional work which will ultimately drive the numbers down.
Concha Martin, Senior design Manager: If any it is a very slow increase to be honest. In architectural practices at junior levels the percentages of male to female roles since I started my career has been close to 50/50. However, there have always been very few women in leadership roles. What worries me is the decline in numbers of women I have seen as I have progressed in my career. I have seen very good professionals that have had to choose between having a family and a successful career, In the past I have also suffered this myself. This is extremely frustrating and not linked to the construction industry but to the society in general.
What more could be done to encourage women into construction?
Alanna Maxwell, Senior Surveyor: I think the biggest fear women have, is probably being different or being intimidated. The more we can educate young men and women in schools on career options available to them the less industries will be attributed to certain genders.
Hannah Tyers, Assistant Surveyor: Seeing other women being successful in construction is something that inspired me to pursue my career and keep my aspirations high. Having both male and female team members expand the perspectives and solutions that are generated. The ability to challenge each other’s ideas means there is more in-depth discussions and the best decisions can be sought.
Do you have any advice for women who are considering construction as a future career?
Katy Ryall, Senior Surveyor: Do research on a company that actively showcases their encouragement of their current and future female employees – a supportive company with a focus on diversity can really have a huge impact on building confident women in construction!
Erica Denman, Engineer: Don’t be afraid to try, there is a wealth of roles out there so don’t assume what it encompasses purely based on preconceived ideas. Go for it, this is women’s time to shine!