Women in Construction UK Magazine spoke with Senior Project Manager for Stace LLP, Jenny Braid, about her experiences of being a Client Side Project Manager for development and construction projects, and her thoughts on whether there has been a shift in attitudes towards women working in the construction industry over the years.
From an early age I had always found myself in a “Man’s World”. I chose Technology and Maths based subjects at school, played golf and enjoyed sport. I went on to study Civil Engineering at University and was 1 of 10 females on the course of 120 students. I knew I would be a minority whichever path I chose, but I was determined to do well. I am now a Senior Project Manager working at Stace LLP, a Property and Construction Consultancy. My role is typically a Client-Side Project Manager and Employer’s Agent. I work closely with Private Developers, Asset Managers and Local Authorities to manage their Project Brief from inception through to completion and handover. I manage project teams which include Architects, Engineers, Planning Consultants and Cost Consultants, as well as manage and work alongside Contractors when the projects are on-site; monitoring works, reviewing the programme and liaising with relevant stakeholders.
I love my job because every day is different, I get to meet so many people, many of whom are inspiring and have shared their experiences with me to aid my learning. My career is rewarding, and I get to be a part of something which is shaping the future of the built environment around me.
I joined Stace as a Graduate in 2012 and the attitude to women within the construction industry has changed in just the short time I have been a part of it. When I walked into one of my first meetings, not only was I the youngest in the room but I was also the only female in the room, although I was comfortable being the minority, I was still a bit taken aback by the lack of females in technical roles within companies, including my own.
As my confidence grew and my role as Project Manager developed, this overtook the fact I was young and female. In the first few years, my Clients were all male, but now I am working with a diverse range of Clients, with majority of my main points of contract being female. This is very apparent within Local Authorities where I am regularly in meetings with a 50/50 split of males to females of varying age and roles.
Another of my Clients is very pro female management, and although I am the only female in his development team, I am never over looked, and he celebrates it. During a pre-start meeting with the Design Team and Contractors he stood up and took a picture of me leading the meeting he Tweeted it with pride that I was the only female and part of his team. In the recent international Women’s Day many construction companies (including Stace) took to social media to express their delight in being a woman in the industry and raise awareness to those who don’t think there is a role for them, expressing ways in which we should develop and enhance diversity within the industry.
It is no longer a taboo to find a woman within a Design or Project Team, however I have yet to work with a female site manager and there is a lack of women in site specific roles such as an electrician or plumber. So, although there is an increase in female visibility and perception of industry is beginning to change, there is still a long way to go, especially within the leadership roles where the industry is still often looked upon like an “Old Man’s Club”.
As a society and an industry, we are aware to the fact that there are twice as many FTSE 100 CEO’s called John than there are female CEOs, and Construction is not great for statistics in equal pay or females in managerial roles. We have identified that the only way to change this is to start young and encourage young females in school (or earlier) to consider Construction and Development as a career path and educate them about the roles within our industry.
So, in 20 years’ time will we start to see an influx of females within the industry? Only time will tell, but what happens now?
There is a very small pool of role models to look up to within the industry and there is no one who looks like me at my company’s boardroom table, but I can see leaders are beginning to see the benefits of having a diverse workforce. I am part of a steering group working to implement a strategy which will encourage the leader’s mindsets to expand and promote female leadership, encourage mothers back to work and developing females through the company.
It’s great to celebrate and recognise how far we have come, but this is only the beginning, we have a long way to go.