Women in Construction Week 2021
At LEP we are celebrating all Women In Construction – tying in nicely with International Women’s Day at the start of the week.
Sadly, the reason it is so vital that we recognise and celebrate women in the construction industry is because we still do not have gender parity. The construction industry is notoriously male dominated and although things are starting to change there’s still a long way to go; less than 10% of the construction industry workforce are women.
The focus of this year’s IWD is leadership and support. Attracting more women in leadership roles is crucial if we are to implement real change and entice more women into the industry as a whole. Strong female leads in construction can inspire the next generation to come forward and seek leadership positions. We can also recognise the impact that the younger generation has had on demanding equality and how this in turn feeds up the chain.
Ultimately, as an industry, we need to continue to recognise, support, encourage, discuss, promote, love, teach, tweet, share and insta this topic until we start to see the results the industry needs!
For Women in Construction Week 2021, LEP’s Liz, Suzanne and Sophie share with you their experiences as women in the industry, which we hope will encourage other women to follow their dreams.
Liz Gibney, Partner:
“Although architecture remains a very male dominated field, it is encouraging that slowly but surely females are increasingly making headway in the industry, with more and more strong female leaders emerging. I am really proud to be a partner at Lee Evans and especially proud to be the first female design partner in the 47 year history.
As a woman breaking into the industry, I was certainly faced with an unfortunate amount of gender bias; from my art teacher questioning my ambition at school, to my early career in architecture when, as a female, I was expected to fetch the coffee and sandwiches for male bosses, whilst my male equivalents were closely mentored and encouraged.
However, I was lucky to work with some wonderful mentors, like David Levitt, where, under his tutelage, I developed a love of residential design where people were placed at the heart of design. I have been fortunate enough to have some great role models throughout my career, both male and female and I hope I can be seen as a role model for future generations.
One area where women can still be considered at a disadvantage relates to achieving a healthy work/life balance. Deciding whether or when to start a family without fear for pushing back your career is a decision no woman should have to make – and is certainly one that most men do not experience and I must admit that was the toughest time for me. This, of course, if not a problem exclusive to the construction and architecture industries, but displays that there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the workplace.
I would definitely encourage women to pursue their dreams and passions and most importantly to believe in themselves.
Thankfully, it feels as though we are in a time of change, with attitudes shifting and light being poured on gender equality, I like to think that my teenage daughter will encounter fewer challenges during her career. I am excited to see more and more female leaders emerge in this industry, and feel proud to be part of this.”
Suzanne Mason, Technologist and Interior Designer:
“As far back as I remember, I have always had a huge passion for exterior and interior architecture – which meant accepting the fact that if I wanted to pursue my dream career, then I had to face it in a ‘Mans’ World’. Which it most definitely was 20 years ago and still is to a degree today.
It is always so encouraging to see women in the construction industry – we bring a much needed balance to this sector and a break in the stigma that ‘construction is for men’. Gladly, my experiences in the workplace have been mostly positive and there have absolutely been stand out men in the industry that have supported, coached and encouraged me in my technical training and love for interiors. Indeed, in a year that has been particularly challenging for everyone, as a working mum, the balance of doing a job I love with the juggles and delights of lockdown home schooling have only been possible with the support, backing and understanding of such colleagues.
Site visits, however, have been challenging at times. To make yourself heard on a predominantly male site can be testing. Belief in yourself, ideas and channelling your reasons why you have chosen this industry are crucial to keep in mind. For me, it will always be about people. How people live, work and learn. Creating attractive surroundings and a meaningful environment to the best of my abilities.
I feel fortunate and proud to have been a part of a wide scope of successful projects, from education – nursery through to secondary, to inter-generational living concepts and high end residential design.
I would wholeheartedly recommend such a rewarding career path to other like-minded people.”
Sophie Lamarque, Architect:
“Choosing Architecture as a career was always an early aspiration of mine. Through my choice of A levels being art and engineering, I felt this was a combination of both the creative and rational of both subjects. I was the only female in my Engineering class, and the only student not to pursue a degree in engineering. But the idea of designing spaces was such a positive and fulfilling path for me, and I was determined!
In my first year of studies, I was so pleased and surprised to see a large cohort of women embarking on their Part 1 alongside me. While I gained a fantastic support network of friends, I found the amount of women decreasing as I progressed through my education up to fully qualifying from my Part 3.
As a newly qualified female Architect within a male-dominated industry, I would be lying to myself if I said it hasn’t been challenging at times! Through experience I have learnt to be confident in my decisions and to do the best with the skills I have, through opportunities in which I have to use them. To work in Architecture, your overall aspiration is to create better spaces for the future, and this is why it is such a rewarding and positive industry to be a part of.
Fortunately, I have been surrounded by men and women that strive for diversity in construction, that inspire me and collectively work towards a more gender balanced industry. Even with remote working and completing my studies within the pandemic, the encouragement to progress and push myself within my training has been a consistent element that has helped me establish myself as an Architect.”