Thomas & Adamson director urges industry to ditch the gender bias

Gill Kirkness, regional director at international property and construction consultancy Thomas & Adamson (T&A), is urging employers to “look beyond gender, and consider the best person for the job” as we celebrate International Woman’s Day today.

Thomas & Adamson director urges industry to ditch the gender bias

Gill Kirkness

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias, the start towards a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination, instead celebrating our differences and creating a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive (DEI).

The construction industry is a key part of the UK economy, contributing 6% of GDP and employing over 2 million people. However, according to statistics from ReBuild, a campaign project set up by senior directors in the construction industry following last year’s International Women’s Day:

  • Only 15% of the construction industry’s workforce are women
  • Just 15% are executives
  • 22% of board members are women
  • The gender pay gap in construction is at 20%.

Regional director Kirkness joined T&A earlier this year to lead its portfolio of impressive public and private sector clients, which includes providing cost management support for the regeneration and extension of 150 St Vincent Street to provide 152,000 sq ft Grade A office accommodation over 10 stories in Glasgow.

She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to T&A, having previously held roles of equity director at Doig & Smith and project director at Axiom Project Services Limited, in a career spanning over 25 years. She explains why it is important for the industry; employers and employees alike, to call out and challenge gender bias.

Gill said: “As a senior director in the construction industry, I really do feel it’s time to change working practices in the sector so that people with the talent and skills can shine through. Throughout my 25-year career I have always been described as a ‘woman’, in the construction industry. Never is a man described as a man first and his position after, and I don’t see why women should be singled out and treated differently in this way. It diminishes my level of experience.

“I strongly believe whatever the project, it should always be about recruiting the best person for the job. There are generations of talented women and girls who have missed out on the construction industry because they weren’t considered suitable, and it is time for that attitude to change. As the UK Government plans a £600 billion stimulus package over the next five years to ‘Build Back Better’ out of the pandemic, the construction industry is actively recruiting new talent at all levels, with skilled workers from all trades critical to this effort. This is a crucial time to challenge gender bias and discrimination to recruit the best people for the jobs but more importantly, retain them long term in an industry reliant on cultivating and nurturing talent over time.”

Gill’s entry into the industry began some 25 years ago as a curious geography graduate wondering what to do next. She came across Tarmac Construction which was advertising for graduates who enjoyed working outdoors and indoors and wanted to continue their education while working on exciting live build projects. It was what she was looking for and she joined the Graduate Training Programme as a trainee quantity surveyor. Gill stayed with Tarmac for seven years working on a range of complex high-profile projects from an HQ building, a new build prison, the M6 widening at Thelwall, a new build shopping centre in London, and the Channel Tunnel.

She joined T&A earlier this year following a six-month sabbatical pursuing a passion project in gelato making in Bologna. Gil is a director and trustee of Ronald McDonald House in Glasgow, who give parents and caregivers a free ‘home from home’ to stay while their seriously ill child is in hospital. She continues to take an active role in the day to day running and fundraising of the Scottish charity.

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