In honour of yesterday’s International Women’s Day, new homes provider Bromford caught up with two of its female Directors, to encourage women in the West Midlands to consider careers in the construction industry.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that in Q4 of 2022, 2,171,000 people in the UK worked in construction1. Out of those people, just 321,000, 14.7 per cent, were women.
At Bromford, the Investment Senior Leadership Team, which focuses on building new homes and procuring properties from private developers, is made up predominately of women. Out of a team of six, only two members are men, as the Directors of Sales and Marketing, Partnerships, Strategic Property Planning and Sustainability, and Developments are all women.
Catherine Jarrett, Sales and Marketing Director, and Clare Crawford, Partnerships Director, are both keen to bring more women into housebuilding. Hailing from Bristol, she has worked in the construction industry for over 20 years, and joined as a Sales Adviser after working in pubs and breweries. She immediately loved how varied her role was, as no two days were the same.
Catherine, now living in Gloucestershire, said: “Construction is a male-dominated industry, but I’m very thankful to have always been in inclusive and respectful environments. When I was a Sales Adviser most of my Sales Directors were women, so there was a strong female presence and I was able to learn directly from my role models.
“I’ve worked with some brilliant women Site Managers, but unfortunately there is still a lack of female Managing Directors (MDs) in the industry. There are some great women MDs out there but not as many as we need. This is a role I would love do to one day and help to break the glass ceiling.”
She added that despite the sector being made up of mostly men, more and more women are starting to be seen. She continued: “More women are being brought into the sector through graduate schemes and apprenticeships which is great to see, and I’m seeing more female engineers, planners and project managers.
“Construction can be very inclusive, and it’s important that women who work in the industry are made visible. I really love what I do and being out on site, the technical side is fascinating and I’m starting to build more relationships in the land area.
“Working in housebuilding is hugely rewarding, as you get to meet the people who are moving into homes you helped to build. My advice to women joining the industry is to enjoy it – it’s a fantastic place to work. You get to leave a great legacy when you finish a site, and that’s something not many people have the privilege of doing.”
Clare, from Wiltshire, has been in the affordable housing sector for 25 years. Initially Clare had dreams of being a vet before she fell into the housing sector, where her mother and sister now also work. She said: “When I joined the PLC world, I saw how male-dominated the housebuilding industry is.
“I was part of a very senior team at the time, and was one of the only people in the top 50 employees who were female. There is still the perception that it is harder for a woman to be a Site Manager, as people assume that women are going to be the primary family carer so therefore won’t have time for a career.
“I definitely see men in the industry benefitting from taking parental leave, so that’s a stereotype that is changing. It’s massively important to encourage women into the industry, and to undo the anti-family side of things.
“If a person is working in a place they enjoy, their organisation should be able to work with them to find ways to help them thrive, regardless of whatever family and life changes are happening around them. It’s hard what we do, and we need to get all the brains we can thinking of new and innovative ideas.
“We can’t solve issues like high energy bills without diversity of thinking, so we can’t continue to cut off a whole group of people.”
Alongside the importance of encouraging a change in the industry, Clare spoke about how one day construction will be more evenly split between men and women. Clare commented: “My nieces don’t play with anything gender-specific, they spend a lot of time building toy houses in their garden, so it would be alien to them to think that construction was something they couldn’t get involved in.
“My advice to women interested in housebuilding is to not assume there will be barriers, and instead challenge the norm. Working in affordable housing wasn’t my first job, but I found it was something I thrived in and that’s what made me stay. In construction we get to make a difference, and not every job does that.”
International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the achievements of women, promoting equality and raising awareness about discrimination. This year, the theme was #EmbraceEquity, which was/is all about educating people on the difference between equality and equity, and highlighting why it’s so important.