International Women’s Day 2018

Nicola Barclay, chief executive at Homes for Scotland

Nicola Barclay

With seemingly perfect timing for International Women’s Day, Homes for Scotland chief executive Nicola Barclay recently addressed the annual dinner of the Association of Women in Property’s Central Scotland branch, which draws members from across the many different disciplines in the property industry.

Having first addressed the group a decade previous, Nicola reflects on her journey since then.

Ten years ago, I stood on the stage at the EICC addressing 850 guests at the Women in Property Dinner. I was Chairman of the Central Scotland branch at the time, and this was my penultimate event before handing the reins over to my vice-chairman.

I was recently honoured to be able to address the most recent dinner, to give them some of my personal thoughts on my own journey over the intervening decade as well as that of the Women in Property organisation itself. With International Women’s Day coming up, what perfect timing!

Back then, as I nervously made my maiden speech, I would never have believed that I would ever have the confidence to voluntarily deliver the after-dinner speech, nor that I would actually enjoy it!

“For me, the only thing you can do is be yourself.”

Nicola Barclay

I spoke about my journey through the housebuilding industry to becoming Chief Executive of Homes for Scotland, and the internal struggle I had with myself to accept that I was good enough to take on the job of leading the organisation tasked with representing such a vital industry. I also talked about the importance of the work Homes for Scotland does and recognised the tremendous efforts of my fabulous team. But my main focus was on my approach to leadership.

I’d been on a couple of training courses about leadership before taking on the role, and I also knew that it would be possible to get advice on all those HR or legal matters that would crop up, but what I’ve discovered since being in post is that you can’t rely on others to tell you what to do.  For me, the only thing you can do is be yourself; trust yourself; and accept that, yes, you will make mistakes but most importantly you will grow and learn from them.

Last month’s dinner had a masquerade theme, which is ironic really because the first thing any leader must do, in my opinion, is take off your mask – don’t hide behind something you’re not – and be your authentic self.

The main influencer on my journey was Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, and author of “Lean In”. I encourage most women I meet to read this book! There are so many practical, almost obvious approaches to use in business to help you become more engaged, more connected and more in control of your working life. I love the example of asking questions at a conference. If the speaker says they have time for two more questions, invariably all the women in the room will lower their hands after two questions have been taken – they’re doing what they’re told and have been rewarded all their lives for being ‘good girls’. Unfortunately, the men in the room didn’t get that memo, so tend to keep their hands up, hopeful that they’ll get the chance to make their point or ask their question. I shared this example with a group of women in housebuilding, and was delighted when a few days later, I saw one of them put it into practice. Given that I was the one on stage looking for questions from the floor, I had to let her ask that third question, didn’t I?!

Nicola supporting the First Minister’s female mentoring campaign

So, what of my involvement in Women in Property? Is it still as relevant as it was ten years ago when I was Chairman? Absolutely. In fact, even more so. So many women lost their jobs during the recession, and we must encourage them to return and help shape the industry of the future. For young women entering the industry, it provides great opportunities to meet people, develop networking skills, and learn from those who have beaten down that path in front of you.

I will always remember the first networking lunch I attended.

I was terrified.

I sat in my car for at least ten minutes trying to summon up the courage to meet this group of women. After all, I had entered the property industry in the full knowledge that it was male dominated. Now I’ve always gotten on well with men and know how to deal with them, for the most part. But a group of professional women? What on earth would I have in common with them? The wonderful thing was, when I finally plucked up the courage to enter, I was greeted with warmth and friendship, and I got on just fine. I realised that I didn’t even know what I was missing: camaraderie, friendship and support.

“How can a process that is influenced and determined by only half the population create a place that suits the whole?”

Nicola Barclay

But Women in Property is about much more than just helping those embarking on their careers. They have just rebranded and want women in the industry to ‘Aspire: Succeed: Inspire’.

It is those who can inspire that I really want to reach out to:  those who can provide support and guidance to younger women. The mentoring scheme that Women in Property operates needs more mentors to help, and the organisation needs more senior women to stay engaged and involved so that it can provide a balanced mix of representation at events.

We need the credibility of senior women to influence and shape this industry. A pool of experience gives us the chance to put forward senior women for slots at conferences and panel discussions. We all want diversity on these panels, and are beginning to see more of it, but we must be willing to step up, or ‘Lean In’ you might say, when offered the chance to take the platform.

Only then can we really influence the debate.

Our industry needs women to do this. Our jobs are ultimately all about creating places where people will live and work. How can a process that is influenced and determined by only half the population create a place that suits the whole? Women have a fundamental role to play in this sector and we must be involved from the top to the bottom.

With International Women’s Day coming up on Thursday 8th March, will you pledge to support Women in Property? There are many ways you can help, depending on who you are:

  • Join up yourself or encourage your staff to join. If you can’t justify them all joining on cost grounds, get them to pitch for it. Who will value it the most? This may help you spot future leaders within your team.
  • Support the organisation through sponsorship. Sponsor individual events, the branch or the annual National Student Awards. Previous sponsors have been on the judging panel and thereafter had the pick of the crop (they’ve even been known to run down the street after one to offer her a position!).
  • Host an event. Site visits are always popular, but business skills, networking and training events are also great ways to engage with the membership and expand your own network.
  • If you’re already a member? Think about joining your local committee. It gives you an opportunity to expand your skills, and you can help to shape the diary of events.

For more information go to www.womeninproperty.org.uk

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Round table discussion with Mactaggart & Mickel’s architectural team

SCN speaks to five female members of the architectural team at Mactaggart & Mickel Homes about their roles, balancing home and work priorities, and why designing houses is not ‘plain vanilla’.

Contributors:

Nicola McGuinness – architect

Joined Mactaggart & Mickel Homes in 2016. Has over twelve years’ experience in private practice as a project architect working on residential, education, retail and mixed use developments.

Susan Wilson – architect

Joined Mactaggart & Mickel Homes in 2016. Prior to that she spent seven years as company architect for another major housebuilder. Earlier experience was in private practice in Ireland and Scotland.

Sarah Carruthers – graduate architectural manager

Joined Mactaggart & Mickel Homes in 2015 after completing a university degree in architecture.

Joanne Young – architectural technologist

Studied in England. After graduation, spent six years working for a leading oak frame house builder in Hereford. Moved back to Scotland in 2016 and joined Mactaggart & Mickel Timber Systems

Jodi Webster – architectural technologist

Graduated in 2014 and spent time in private practice, specialising in retail sector.  Joined Mactaggart & Mickel Homes in 2017.

  1. Why did you join Mactaggart & Mickel Homes?

Nicola

The main reason I joined Mactaggart & Mickel Homes was for the exposure to different facets of the industry and the opportunities to develop different skills sets that private practice couldn’t offer. As a multi-disciplinary company, Mactaggart & Mickel embrace collaborative working. There are also a lot more women in senior roles than I have ever experienced elsewhere, which is very encouraging.

Jodi

I left private practice because sometimes you can get pigeon-holed – or at least I did. I was going to site three days a week and not getting to draw as much as I would of like. In my role at Mactaggart & Mickel I have more dedicated time to draw. It’s a great design team to be a part of and I get to use my Autocad and 3D skills.

Joanne

I’m a timber frame designer, based at Mactaggart & Mickel’s Timber Systems division at Bellshill. My background was in bespoke oak frame design but I am now learning about doing things on a much larger scale. This is a great way to develop my technical skills.

Sarah

After university, I knew I wanted to grow my technical knowledge quickly on completion of my Part 1 qualification. That’s why I opted to join Mactaggart & Mickel Homes rather than go into private practice. Although I have not worked elsewhere, the team are very supportive and encourage you to widen your skills.

  1. What are the benefits of working at Mactaggart & Mickel?

Jodi

There’s lots of project management as well as the formal design element. One person from an architectural perspective works on one project whereas in private practice there would be a team of people working on one project. You learn much more about how a business works, the commercial and planning processes that need to be progressed in tandem with what we do.

Nicola

The flexible working hours, exposure to different facets of the industry, being involved in a wide variety of tasks and the good remuneration package and benefits. The collaborative approach means an idea can be reviewed by all from the outset and you quickly understand if it is viable or not.

Susan

I was able to negotiate a four day week with a previous employer – instead of a proposed pay cut due to the recession – and Mactaggart & Mickel were happy to keep to that working arrangement. That flexibility is hard to find in architectural world, particularly for more senior positions.

Mactaggart & Mickel’s approach to flexible working is a huge benefit particularly when you have a family.

Jodi

I may be in the early stages in my career but Mactaggart & Mickel has welcomed my professional expertise since I joined. At MacMic everyone is valued for the skills they bring.  Whether you are male or female is irrelevant.

  1. Housebuilding at the volume end of the market is arguably not highly regarded in architectural circles. What’s your take on this?

Susan

At university housebuilding was seen as ‘the dark side’. Younger people often don’t aspire to work within the house building industry because they see it as a standard product with much less scope for creativity. This is a real shame because good quality architectural input could transform some of the housing developments going up around the country and besides it can be a very varied and rewarding job.

Sarah

The work may not be as technically challenging, but the challenge for us as designers is to push organisations to build homes that will ensure flourishing communities for generations to come.

I care about helping people. I want to build nice communities, and have a genuine desire to do this through my architectural expertise.

Everyone’s home is important to them. MacMic realise this and I think they strike the right balance between great design and commercial aspiration.

Nicola

There is still some snobbery around housebuilding as a place to build your architectural career.

Housebuilding is the ‘reality’ of architecture. The home is where most people come into contact with architecture – it affects us all. It is essential that we produce good design to allow us to build strong communities which can make a positive impact on people’ lives, as poor design can have a detrimental effect on society as a whole.

My role here is so varied. I am an architectural manager, which consists of being an architect, design manager and principal designer, and it’s clear that my own skill and experience are developing faster because of my exposure to so many different facets of the business.

Engaging with architectural students about the importance of having architects performing this role within a house builder is so important.

  1. Will the tide turn and housebuilding be viewed in a different way?

Susan

I don’t think there is any sign of this happening any time soon. Although maybe the fact that Nicola and I are both here is a sign that things are changing. Perhaps we, as the housebuilding industry, need to do more, to engage with universities and students considering architecture as a career and emphasise the difference they can make and the importance of this role. Housing affects us all and homes and communities that are not well designed can have a negative effect on people’s quality of life, health and so on, which in turn will affect our economy. Conversely, if people are proud of where they live, they look after their homes and they form stronger communities which has a positive impact.

Sarah

It’s important that architecturally-qualified people are involved in planning housebuilding as well as the homes themselves. That was not always the case in the past and good design seemed to fall further down the pecking order. But once you can demonstrate that it can be done well, with lasting benefits for society, then others will follow.

You have to be resilient and fight for good design at times. I believe many architects – female or male – currently working in private practice would enjoy working in this sector – but it is not being sold to them. They hear ‘housebuilding’ and immediately think ‘standard product’ and look elsewhere. My advice would be – take a closer look.

Joanne

There’s a bit of a disconnect between university and real life. Whilst studying you are asked to design quite grand ideas; for example I was ask to design a transport hub for Robin Hood Airport. It’s an exciting thing to work on but when you get into the real world you soon realise that it isn’t necessarily the day-to-day job.

If housebuilding was promoted to architectural graduates you would see a real benefit – for them and for the sector. Housebuilding is an excellent way to gain experience very quickly and it’s very varied. Looking at it as a timber frame designer, you are often working on multiple projects at any one time, different house types, private housing and social housing. It’s very fast-paced.

Susan

There are not many great examples of volume housebuilding in Scotland. Most are a bit bland and look very similar to each other. I can see why this would not inspire a would-be architect to go and work for a housebuilder. Perhaps we, as the housebuilding industry, need to do more, to speak to these considering architecture as a career and tell them: “You could make a difference here.”

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Setting my ‘sites’ on a thriving career in construction

Amanda Byrne

From enrolling at Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland to working on Edinburgh College of Art, site manager Amanda Byrne tells SCN how her journey has led to a rewarding career at Kier Construction Scotland.

People are always surprised when I tell them that I’m a construction site manager. ‘That’s not a job for a woman, surely?’ is usually the response I get. It just goes to show that appearances can be deceiving!

Growing up, I had my heart set on becoming a sports journalist. I was good at English, I liked travelling and played rugby and cricket at school, so it seemed like the perfect job.

By the time I finished school, the construction industry in Ireland was booming and I opened my mind to seriously thinking of a career in this industry. I enrolled in a four year Construction Management degree at Waterford Institute of Technology in the south of Ireland and my journey started from there.

During the summer breaks I worked for a large construction company, getting on-the-job experience of site management. I learned a huge amount and by the time I graduated, the firm took me on full time as an Assistant Site Manager.

I thrived in this environment – the fact that two days aren’t the same, working with different people, finding solutions to overcome daily challenges and the sheer satisfaction of seeing a building come out of the ground before your eyes, all adds up to a really rewarding job.

In 2003, I was ready for my next challenge and took up a position at Kier Construction Scotland. Since then I’ve been involved in several major construction projects and was promoted to Site Manager in 2007.

“I’m so glad that I was never put off considering a career in this fantastic industry which has rewarded me so much.”

Amanda Byrne

With Kier, I’ve had the privilege of working at some major projects at Edinburgh Airport, Fetes College, the Western General Hospital and now the Edinburgh College of Art, to name just a few.

I’ve never experienced any set-backs from being a woman in construction. I’m also lucky to have a great boss and together we make a fantastic double act!

There’s no doubt that there is still a perception that the construction industry is dirty, cold and that we generally dig things! It’s really not the case. Of course, I spend some of my time out of the office, patrolling the site, checking quality and safety, but equally I spend much of my time being office based and having briefings and meetings and working with a large team of tradespeople, architects and engineers. It’s a great feeling being part of a big team and I’ve developed a solid knowledge of so many aspects of construction.

Equally, there are loads of training and development opportunities within Kier. Soon I’m heading off to Edinburgh Zoo for an ecology day to learn more about protected species and plants – every day really is a school day!

Undoubtedly the construction industry is facing a skills shortage. It’s important that people begin to see past the traditional construction roles and consider the numerous careers available to young people, especially young women.

A recent report commissioned by Kier showed that 66% of teachers and careers advisors held negative views of the construction industry as a route for their students to pursue and 73% of parents wouldn’t want their children to even consider a career in the sector.

These findings make for shocking reading and I’m so glad that I was never put off considering a career in this fantastic industry which has rewarded me so much.

I’m really pleased Kier is working to change this perception and has pledged one percent of its workforce to act as career ambassadors in schools and colleges over the next 12 months engaging with the next generation of talent.

For my part, I’m currently working with Kier on a series of careers fairs throughout Scotland, raising the profile of construction and inspiring people to consider a role in this hugely rewarding and thriving sector. I’ve been working with high school pupils at careers fairs to try open their minds and help them consider that there are so many diverse roles within this industry – and very few of them involve digging!

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Counting my blessings for my career in construction

Ashley Dunsmore

Kier Construction Scotland’s assistant quantity surveyor, Ashley Dunsmore, says she got the construction bug by watching ‘Megastructures’ and haggling at foreign markets.

I had absolutely no clue what a quantity surveyor was or did when I was at school. Throughout secondary school it’s fair to say that I wasn’t encouraged to consider a career in construction. At the annual careers fair, construction firms were nowhere to be seen. Instead, a job in the fire service, the police or as a beautician was all that was on offer.

None of these roles spoke to my inner geek. I loved watching the Discovery Channel and the programme ‘Megastructures’. When I was aged 14 and on holiday with my family, I took to haggling at the local markets like a duck to water.  My mum said I should think about a career as a quantity surveyor. And so my journey began…..

I ended up doing a four year, full-time quantity surveying degree at Glasgow Caledonian University. Girls were definitely in the minority, representing only ten percent of students on my course.

I did a placement during my third year for a contractor based in Dundee and I was offered a job there when I finished my university course. However, I wanted to keep working towards my professional qualification and when I found out about Kier’s graduate scheme, I knew that was the route I wanted to follow.

I was recruited to Kier’s three year graduate degree programme, along with around 150 other graduates and I’ve already completed two and a half years at Kier.

Working with Kier means Ashley can observe restoration projects like the Aberdeen Music Hall

The whole programme has really helped my career. It’s given me all the tools, mentoring support and experience I need to qualify for membership of the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence, and I hope to get my chartership later this year.

The graduate programme has given me a great mix of practical on-the-job experience, formal learning, first line management skills and professional development. I’ve had a great grounding in the business – spending my time on-site and in the office and I work on a variety of projects to give me a broad base to build my career.

I work at Kier Construction’s Aberdeen office and I’m currently leading an improvement programme at Aberdeen Fire Station north control room. I’ve also been able to see first-hand the major infrastructure projects that Kier is involved in, like the CrossRail project in London, the biggest engineering project in Europe, as well as complex restoration projects like the Aberdeen Music Hall and Glasgow School of Art.

“We need to see past traditional construction roles and open our minds to the numerous careers available to young women.”

Ashley Dunsmore

I’ve found that the construction sector offers a wealth of opportunities, with varied and interesting work across the industry and competitive benefits too. As well as typical construction roles, there are a host of architecture, engineering, surveying, project management and planning jobs to name just a few. I’ve always wanted to travel and hope that by working with an international company that has offices in the Middle East, Australia and Hong Kong, I’ll get the chance to do more of that. Kier is also putting me through a leadership programme which will give me another step up on the career ladder.

There is no doubt that the construction industry is facing a skills shortage and the sector certainly suffers from an image problem. We need to see past traditional construction roles and open our minds to the numerous careers available to young people, especially young women.

Kier recently became a member of The WISE Campaign (Women in Science and Engineering) and is working with them to motivate girls and women to study and build careers using science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). The mission is to get one million more women into the UK STEM workforce and to support them to help attract the next generation of talent.

I’m helping to play my part to encourage young people, especially girls into this fantastic sector. I’m currently working with Kier on a series of careers fairs throughout Scotland to raise the profile of construction and inspire people to consider a role in this hugely rewarding and thriving sector. The next time I ask a young person what they want to be when they grow up, I really hope l hear a few quantity surveyors thrown into the mix!

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Construction is not just about getting your hands dirty

Pauline McCabe

After spending some time in Greece, Kier Construction Scotland’s Pauline McCabe reveals the personal reasons for returning to Scotland and working in health and safety.

“When I grow up, I want to be a health and safety manager.”

There’s a phrase I bet that no teacher has ever heard escape from the lips of a six year old. It may not have been my childhood dream, yet here I am, a health and safety manager who loves her job.

Like many children with a love of all things cute and cuddly, I wanted to be a vet when I grew up. But by the time I left school, I was confused about what I wanted to do, so rather than make a life-changing decision at a time of uncertainty, I moved to Greece and did some bartending and an office manager role.

When I came back to Scotland a couple of years later, it was time to grow up.  My experience in Greece got me a job as an office manager, sharing my time between an architect’s studio and neighbouring engineering company. This was my first taste of life in the construction industry.

When I began working with the engineering company full time, I started working closely with the planning supervisor, and got involved in quality assurance when the company was installing masts for mobile telephones. I found out about the risks involved and how to overcome them, and this sparked an interest in health and safety. There were personal reasons too; my father was an electrician in the shipyards and picked up pleural plaques, an asbestos related disease and my brother was a miner and has vibration white finger, a condition triggered by continuous use of vibrating hand-held machinery where you can lose all feeling in your fingers.

“The most rewarding aspect is definitely the fact that I’m helping to protect people at work and making a real difference to their lives.”

Pauline McCabe

Having decided on a career in health and safety, I went to work for as many sub-contractor companies as possible, including bricklaying, cladding, roofing and steelwork companies as a consultant, to gain a broad knowledge of the construction sector. While working, I also attended university two nights a week for two years to gain my National Examination Board for Occupational Safety and Health qualification. Shortly afterwards, I became a health and safety adviser before moving to Kier Construction Scotland. I joined Kier as a senior health and safety advisor and was promoted to health and safety manager within six months.

I think the saying ‘life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get’ pretty much sums up my role within health and safety. The fact that every day is different is one of the many things that I really love about my job. The most rewarding aspect is definitely the fact that I’m helping to protect people at work and making a real difference to their lives. I tend to spend one day a week in the office, working on strategy and planning, and the other four days going out to sites, speaking to employees and generally putting the theory into practice! The biggest challenge is getting the workforce to put their safety first at all times, and to place the same care and attention on themselves while working as they would their children and other family members.

As a woman in construction, I’m aware there’s a gender imbalance, but there have been no barriers for me personally. Kier is a very welcoming and diverse company, but I strongly believe that more needs to be done within the industry in general to redress the gender imbalance.

I think the construction industry is still suffering from an image problem. People are under the impression that if you work in construction, you are in a dirty and cold environment. It doesn’t have to be like that – for every role that involves getting your hands grubby, there is another which does not. Construction is a thriving and rewarding industry with so many different roles, and we need to change perceptions for people to realise this and consider a career in this sector.

I’m hoping that I can play a small part in this. I’m often invited to visit nursery and primary schools to give talks to children about the dangers of construction sites. While I’m there, I also try and give them a bit of an insight into this industry, in the hope that I might inspire some young people to change their dream career from a vet, police officer or footballer to an engineer, architect – or even a health and safety manager!

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Jeanette MacIntyre, managing director at Indeglas Limited

Jeanette MacIntyre

Having worked on projects for some of the world’s largest companies, negotiated a management buyout and played a part in delivering a multi award-winning building, Jeanette MacIntyre shares her story with SCN.

Give us an overview of your career so far

I qualified in Interior Design from Napier University, Edinburgh and completed the Graduate Enterprise course ran by Scottish Enterprise at Stirling University before setting up my first company. After Into Design, my Edinburgh based consultancy business, I then joined the Interiors Division of Tarmac Construction in 1987, where I worked on larger projects for some of the blue-chip companies based in Scotland, including Compaq, Motorola, and IBM. I also worked with the government’s Property Services Agency on a number of public buildings. This led to me working with their design teams to refurbish Scottish Courts, Customs and Excise, Benefits Agency and Military Centres.

In 1993 I became one of the founding directors of Zenith Contract Interiors, a design and all trades fitting out company which grew to become one of Scotland’s most successful interior specialists at that time. At the core of Zenith’s growth in the market was the specialist internal glazing system DEKO of Denmark, a skilfully engineered, minimalistic glass screen system. In 2000, that became DEKO Scotland, specialising in the interior application of glass. In 2013 I negotiated a management buyout of the company to become its major shareholder and in 2017 rebranded to create Indeglas, aligning the service offering of the business with its key customers and to reflect the company’s status within this specialist sector of the construction industry.

The City of Glasgow College. Image: Keith Hunter Photography

Highlight some of the large scale projects you’ve been involved in

Last year I completed one of the largest projects I’ve been involved with – the installation of internal glass screens at City of Glasgow College with a single contract value of over £1 million. Working with Reiach and Hall Architects and the construction team at Sir Robert McAlpine we developed the design intent and engineered the installation of a wide variety of high performance glass screens, some providing as much as 2 hours resistance to fire. The project has won multiple awards, including the 2017 Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) and Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Award for best current Scottish architecture. Current large scale projects include the Data Technology Institute for University of Edinburgh and a five story office development for Allstate in Belfast which account for a further turnover value of over £1m.

What are your hopes for your career in the future?

An exciting opportunity exists for me to grow Indeglas geographically, having been appointed the key distributor of the DEKO glazed screen product for the entire UK and Ireland. I have already exhibited in Dublin which brought an amazing response and last year I appointed a technical manager in the Midlands with a view to securing further work with existing and new construction partners in England.

Advanced technology and production techniques consistently bring new high performance glass specifications to market. It’s exciting to explore how these can be applied architecturally, using glass to enhance work and public space by bringing natural light and general wellbeing to its occupants as an engineered, completely sustainable solution.

What are your thoughts on the sector in terms of the number of females working in general and in higher positions?

The situation is improving with an increasing number of women working in architecture and design, engineering and surveying. That said, I am conscious that female representation is still extremely low in the boardrooms, and senior levels of construction companies. I believe that the industry as a whole would benefit massively by encouraging more women to senior management. Construction has, historically, been a male-dominated environment and the fresh ideas that would result from female hands on more of the tillers can only help the industry thrive.

Could more be done to encourage women into construction?

We need to promote positive role models and foster engagement at school and during further education. I, and other women in construction, need to demonstrate the possibilities in both mainstream and specialist sectors of the industry. Efforts by the Scottish Government, and some private initiatives, to encourage school-age girls to consider careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) have shown results, but there needs to be large scale encouragement from the board room to the building site to refute the notion that construction is a “boy’s job”.

As an employer what have you done to facilitate this?

I am pleased to report that our management team is currently 50% women. We are engaged with CITB in encouraging a more specialist element to the apprenticeships currently being offered. It would be encouraging and very positive for the industry as a whole to be able to introduce more girls at this and every other level. Opportunities exist for CITB to effectively promote the sector via school, college and university careers advisors.

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

City Building constructs bright future for women

Siobhan Logue at the inaugural Herald Diversity Conference in May last year

With City Building making great strides in attracting women into the industry and helping them to progress, SCN catches up with four of its brightest employees who are each taking their opportunities to blaze their own trail in the sector.

Historically, craft trades have been male-dominated but Glasgow construction firm City Building has made strong progress in attracting more women as part of plans to improve diversity across the business.

The company employs 20% of all female craft apprentices in Scotland and 55% of its senior management are women.

Among the success stories is contracts manager Natalie McPherson, 34, who joined City Building over 16 years ago as an apprentice painter and decorator. Natalie, who now manages multiple projects on behalf of client Glasgow City Council, entered the industry after undertaking a six-week City Building ‘taster’ course at school.

Natalie McPherson

Her potential was recognised during the course and she was encouraged to apply for an apprenticeship. “I loved painting and decorating,” she said. “I had always been hands on, so construction was the ideal job for me.”

After completing her apprenticeship Natalie quickly moved into management, becoming an operations manager in charge of high profile projects including the £2.5 million refurbishment of Lorne Street Primary School in Govan, a Category B listed building. “It was great because it involved liaising with Historic Scotland and working closely with an architect,” Natalie said.

Siobhan Logue

Also making her mark in management at City Building is Siobhan Logue, 26. Site manager Siobhan started out as an apprentice plumber in September 2008. “I’m not going to lie,” she said, “the reason I chose to go into plumbing was that it was the highest paid trade.”

Siobhan joined City Building in September 2008 after completing a six-month National Certificate course as a school leaver. After attaining tradesperson status four years later she was earning a good salary but took a pay cut to become a trainee manager. “I wanted to work my way up and I knew I had the experience to build good relationships and make them work,” she said.

Now managing the £2m refurbishment of Cuthbertson Street Primary School she is relishing the challenges of being a manager. “It can be difficult as there are 400 pupils at Cuthbertson Street and we have to work round that, but I’ve got a great team. I do the office work, which is all the planning and management, and the guys on the job respect that.”

Phoebe Ali

Second year apprentice Phoebe Ali, 18, also chose the plumbing route. Currently working in the gas section of City Building, she became interested in plumbing after receiving support from a female technical studies teacher to apply for an apprenticeship through the Glasgow Guarantee scheme. The £50m programme is a legacy of the Commonwealth Games and assists young people into employment or training.

Phoebe said: “I knew from the age of 14 that I wanted to work in the construction industry. My uncle in England had his own construction firm and I can remember picking up his tools and playing with them when I was little. It also offered secure employment without going to university, which I didn’t want to do.”

The teenager, who was last year named Glasgow Guarantee Apprentice of the Year, is currently installing boilers in housing association properties and was previously part of a team fitting new kitchens and bathrooms.

She also regularly attends to school events to promote the construction industry to young women – including a session at her own alma mater, Rosshall Academy.

“Girls are put off by not having experience, and working with so many guys can be a bit intimidating but it is mind over matter,” she said. “If you don’t want to be behind a desk, it is a great career option.”

Lisa Murphy

Fourth year apprentice painter and decorator Lisa Murphy is another City Building award-winner. As well as being named Trades House Apprentice of the Year in 2015 she won the Scottish heat of the UK-wide Johnstone’s Young Painter of the Year in 2016 before going on to take first place nationally in 2017.

Lisa, 21, was inspired to take up painting and decorating after completing an interior design project as part of her Higher Art course. She also says her late grandfather was an influence

“I didn’t want to go down the university route as I preferred working with my hands. Having a grandfather, who was a painter and decorator, probably influenced me too. He helped me a lot in the first year of my apprenticeship.”

Lisa Murphy

The project Lisa enjoyed most was helping to build the set of the Hello My Name is Paul Smith exhibition in 2016 at The Lighthouse in Glasgow. “It was really detailed work – not like painting a house,” she explained.

“I love my job but now that I’ve been on building sites, I see my future as being in construction management. I’d like to do a Higher National Certificate and move up through the company doing stuff that I enjoy.”

Natalie added: “Sometimes as a woman on the job you need to prove yourself, but when the guys see you can do the job you gain their respect.  I’d say to any other women considering construction to give it a try. I definitely wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Press for Progress this International Women’s Day

Hannah Simpson

GRAHAM Construction apprentice engineer, Hannah Simpson, tackles a question often associated with the construction industry – “Where are all the women?”

It’s my experience that prior to choosing a career, girls are not given the right information about roles within the sector.

I hadn’t considered construction until it was time to apply for university, when it became obvious that my strong subjects pointed me in the direction of civil engineering.

It’s a failing of our society that certain jobs are matched to one gender, and for that reason I had never previously considered it.

At university, from a class of 70, there were only eight female students.

The theme for International Women’s Day today is #PressforProgress and last year’s was #BeBoldforChange, but we still have some way to go in moving away from the male-dominated persona construction and similar sectors carry.

Being the only female on a building site can be a daunting prospect for some women, but thankfully I’ve found my workmates to be welcoming and respectful and I’ve been given the same opportunities as my male colleagues.

When people ask me why girls should be thinking about a career within the industry, my answer is that I absolutely love my job, every day is different and every day is a school day. I know this sounds like a cliché but it’s the experience I’ve had.

It’s important to me that we show that these roles are for both genders and that we aren’t telling young girls to stay clear and think of another career that is more “suited”.

You don’t have to want to build a building to work in construction – there’s a number of different roles that are needed during any project. I work with women in my company that are essential to the build while not working directly on site.

It’s also Scottish Apprenticeship Week this week, time to celebrate the routes that are open to all and highlight to young people of both genders the subjects they may need to kick start their career.

The company I work for is a member of the 5% Club, an organisation consisting of companies committed to ensuring 5% of their workforce over the next five years is comprised of young people on structured learning schemes.

I’m proud to be a woman in construction and consider myself lucky to have a job that I love – and it’s even better when you get to beat the boys!

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Women building a career at Barratt North Scotland

Vicky Gray

Across the globe, 2018 is being dubbed the ‘year of the woman’ following a series of high profile headlines and social media campaigns. To celebrate the role women are playing in making Barratt North Scotland the success it is today, assistant site manager, Vicky Gray, and apprentice joiner, Jemma Sykes, have shared their experiences of building careers in construction.

Glasgow-born Vicky Gray joined Barratt North Scotland in 2015 as a graduate trainee after completing an honours degree in Architectural Technology at Robert Gordon University. After successfully completing the housebuilder’s Accelerated Construction Graduate Scheme, she was promoted to assistant site manager in 2016, and is now working towards becoming a fully-fledged site manager running her own projects and her own team.

Vicky (24) first became inspired to pursue a career in construction when she completed some voluntary work in India. She supported a local community to build an orphanage by assisting with basic hands-on construction. Speaking of her experience, she said: “Seeing the excitement on the children’s faces after we transformed derelict land into somewhere they could truly call home was phenomenal – a memory I will treasure forever.”

Vicky credits the support she received both as a student and as a trainee, for the success she has achieved to date. Her university lecturer pointed her in the direction of the Accelerated Construction Graduate Scheme and put her in touch with a contact at Barratt Homes who supported Vicky through the application process. As a trainee, Barratt North Scotland team provided Vicky with “the greatest support she could ask for”, giving her access to training courses, UK site visits and regular reviews with the construction manager throughout.

“I am confident that I have taken the first steps into a long and lucrative career, and I hope I can inspire other women to take those steps too.”

Vicky Gray

Now that she has completed her training, Vicky thrives on the variety her role provides, making every day a new opportunity to learn, tackle interesting new challenges and meet new people. Describing her role, she said: “On a daily basis I deal with a variety of different tasks, from coordinating on site tradesmen, completing health and safety documentation, and ensuring the build programme is on schedule and up-to-date, to liaising with suppliers and subcontractors, ordering materials and following up with aftercare for new homeowners.

“There is definitely no such thing as a typical day onsite, especially at Westburn Gardens where I’m currently based. This is a large and complex site featuring new build homes, multi-storey apartments, underground car parking, refurbished listed buildings and historic monuments. I’ve worked on this project for around a year and a half now and it has become an excellent learning experience because of the variety it entails.”

“Old fashioned perceptions are unhelpful and have no place.”

Jemma Sykes

As a woman working in a sector traditionally perceived to be a male-dominated sector, Vicky has clear views about how stereotypes and misinformed perceptions can be addressed. Also, while she does accept that the construction workforce is still predominantly male, she doesn’t believe that this should be seen as a barrier for women seeking employment in this field.

Speaking of her experience, she said: “The construction world is still made up predominantly of men, but my greatest barrier was coming into this role without a trade background. I was concerned that the tradespeople on site would not take me seriously, but I was quickly proven wrong – everyone has treated me positively and respectfully and I very much feel part of the team.

“There are many beliefs that construction is not for women because of the unsociable hours, physical work and so on, but this is all about dated attitudes and ill-informed perception. This is in fact the greatest barrier. By working hard to encourage more women into the sector, house builders can help to break down this barrier by improving awareness of the opportunities on offer. I am confident that I have taken the first steps into a long and lucrative career, and I hope I can inspire other women to take those steps too.”

Jemma Sykes

Jemma (26) has followed a different route into construction, opting to learn a trade rather than enter as a graduate manager. Originally from Salford, she is now in her second year as an apprentice joiner with Barratt North Scotland. As an older apprentice, Jemma was inspired to pursue joinery by her experience of building her own home as well her interest in creating bespoke furniture.

Speaking of her role, she said: “I like being hands on and active, and I get a great deal of satisfaction from seeing the finished result of my efforts in the final stages of a project. My experience so far has given me the practical and theoretical skills as well as the confidence to tackle my own projects too.

“A typical day for me starts at 7.30am. I unload my tools and take them to where I am working – which is normally up scaffolding – then collecting any materials I might need for the job. At the moment we are framing external walls ready for cladding to be fixed to them. We normally stop for a break at around 9.30, then for lunch at 12.30, before finishing on site at 4.30pm.”

Jemma believes that perceptions surrounding the physical capabilities of women need to be addressed if the industry is to inspire future generations of tradeswomen. She has never doubted her ability to do her job to the highest standard and aspires for future development in her career.

She explained: “By sharing experiences like my own, we can raise the profile of the fact that women are already doing these jobs successfully and that employers like Barratt North Scotland fully recognise the contribution women can make to the construction industry.

“Old fashioned perceptions are unhelpful and have no place – whether it’s an opinion shared by a family member, a school teacher or a colleague. Construction offers so many career paths, especially now as skills are in high demand. I’m really proud to be learning such a valued craft and I hope to inspire other women to consider a trade as a fulfilling career choice.”

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Finding a different pathway to my successful career in construction

Elaine Perratt

Elaine Perratt shares her 33-year journey from office temp to assistant health and safety manager at Cruden Buildings & Renewals Ltd.

When I was at school, I wasn’t academic; the thought of going to university had never crossed my mind. I applied for a nursery nursing course and was accepted, so I was looking forward to a leisurely summer before starting the course in September.

My mum, however, had other ideas! She took me job-hunting, and we found a vacancy on what was then known as a YTS scheme, for an office junior with housebuilder and construction company, Cruden Buildings & Renewals Ltd. I thought it would be a perfect way to get some experience and money over the summer, and it turned out that I loved working in an office.

When September approached, I told Cruden that although I was enjoying my job, I was due to start my college course, and my position with them was only temporary.

Cruden, as an employer, prides itself on finding a pathway to a career for all of their staff.  They offered me a full-time role as an office junior where I would have the opportunity to progress and develop in the company. I jumped at the chance, and what teenager wouldn’t welcome the full time salary?

A dizzy 33 years later, I am still with Cruden. Over the years I have worked in many roles and departments, including accounts and estimating, working with suppliers and helping with tenders. Then, a position came up as an administration manager in the health and safety department, where I initially typed up reports that the health and safety manager was carrying out on site. My manager then suggested it would be easier if I came out on site with him, so I could see what he did behind the scenes.

“Statistics show that at a typical health and safety seminar or event, in a room full of 100 people, only five will be women.”

Elaine Perratt

Once out on site, my manager could see how interested I was in what he was doing, and suggested I sit my NEBOSH general certificate, which is a globally recognised health and safety qualification. I attended a 16-week course on day release at Motherwell College, which Cruden paid for. At the end of the course I sat two exams and successfully gained my qualification.

It was after this that my manager suggested I consider a degree in health and safety. Never in my wildest dreams had I ever imagined getting a degree, but I had really enjoyed my NEBOSH general certificate, so I was delighted to give it a try. My managing director was extremely supportive, explaining that Cruden would help me in any way they could, including giving me time off for studying. My diploma also allowed me to fast track straight into second year of the course.

I attended university for one day a week. At the same time, I was promoted to health and safety assistant, a role which involved carrying out site inspections, checking signage and carrying out risk assessments. I really enjoyed the combination of classroom learning and on-site experience. After three years, I gained my BSc in Occupational Safety and Health, which was a very proud moment.

Even after all these years, I still love working in construction. My favourite part of my job is knowing that I’m getting everyone home safely. It’s good to get people to look at the bigger picture – cutting corners might save someone ten minutes, but an injury could keep them off work for weeks, or even months.

Statistics show that at a typical health and safety seminar or event, in a room full of 100 people, only five will be women. I’ve been lucky that I’ve never experienced any problems with being a woman in construction. Part of that is down to the culture within Cruden – from the top down, everyone supports each other. We are like a big family. Cruden already has an all-female purchasing department, which is quite rare within the construction industry.

There is still work to be done in addressing the sometimes negative perception of the industry. For example, we often visit primary schools to talk about the safety aspect of construction sites, but I feel that more could be done to encourage children into careers in construction at the same time.

I would encourage anyone, male or female, who is considering a career in construction to go for it. My experience has shown that in this industry, even if you don’t start out with qualifications, with the right attitude and a supportive employer you can still have a long-lasting, fulfilling and varied career.

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.