interview: fiona senior commercial manager.

We recently interviewed Fiona, a Senior Commercial Manager, to explore her views on women in the construction industry.

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[Randstad] Hi Fiona. Could you give us a quick overview of your career in the construction industry?

[Fiona] "Of course. I started my career in the late 70s as an Apprentice Quantity Surveyor with a private practise before moving to a building and construction company.

"For the past three years, I’ve held the post of Senior Commercial Manager for Vinci UK and its specialist civil engineering division; Taylor Woodrow. I’ve actually been with this company for eight years; spending the first five with Taylor Woodrow exclusively, then leaving the business for three years before returning to secure my current role."

[R] Great – so it’s clear you’ve got a solid background in construction. Was it a conscious decision to choose and stay in this industry?

[F] "Well I fell into construction after leaving school and just really liked it. I wanted to carve a successful career for myself in this industry so I studied to become a qualified Chartered Surveyor and from then on, I’ve never looked for work outside of the industry. I’ve established a solid understanding of the sector and developed a specialist skill set – why would I move?"

[R] Absolutely! Well the team here at Randstad have recently conducted research into women in construction and gathered industry predictions to forecast what the future may hold. Interestingly, we found that women are expected to make up a quarter (26%) of the UK’s construction workforce by 2020. Does this surprise you?

[F] "Yes it does – I see no evidence of an increase that significant; even over the next five years. And certainly not for young women in operational roles."  

"I have very few CVs from women land on my desk"

[R] What types of roles do you see women put forward for, and what would you say the proportion of women is in your company?

[F] "We see a greater number of women in support roles but I wouldn’t say that the percentage of women in our company exceeds 10% across the board.  I have very few CVs from women land on my desk; proven recently when we were recruiting for a Trainee Quantity Surveyor. We didn’t receive a single CV from a female for that role."

[R] Interesting. Our research also suggests that pay packets will rise 6% per year between 2005 and 2015 for women in construction. Do you think this will attract more women to the industry?

[F] "No, not really. I think that the industry fails to attract many women because of outside perceptions of the culture of the industry. It’s often perceived as aggressive, dirty and male dominated, and there’s a misconception that women have to be particularly strong willed to survive."

[R] Our report findings suggest that we’ll see more women filling senior construction roles. Are there women other than yourself in your company’s senior management team?

[F] "Yes – I’d say around 10% of the team are female."

[R] Do you feel that there are good opportunities for promotion and progression in your company? And is this opportunity equal between men and women?

[F] "Yes there are opportunities for women but I think until the industry promotes a better work / life balance, we won’t see a significant surge in women taking on more senior roles.

"Women often take on caring and parenting duties (more so than men) which simply don’t mix with the demands of a senior role in construction; where long hours and time spent working away from home is expected."

[R] Our research suggests that employers are increasingly supportive of women in the industry, but that cultural issues and a lack of workplace flexibility are the greatest barriers to women looking to work in construction.

[F] "And I think that’s true. But the industry is much better in that respect compared to how it was 20 years ago. Companies have recognised that they’re only using half of the active workforce so in order to recruit from a wider pool; they have to amend working practices to encourage women in."

[F] And finally, what would your advice be to women considering a career in the construction industry?

[F] "The construction industry is passionate, fun and every day is different. It can give you the opportunity to work all over the world.

"It is a people industry where you get to meet lots of different people with different backgrounds and skills. It is an industry which is starting to welcome women with open arms. If you have the confidence and believe in yourself, you can do and achieve anything you want to. And in what other industry can you walk down the road with your friends, point to a building, and say 'I did that'."

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