Below are some case studies of some of the most inspiring women we know who are working in the construction industry.

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Christine Townley

Christine has a set a fine example for women in the construction industry through her life and career. In times where working women had to face prejudice she thrived in an industry dominated by men.  Christine’s career started when still a schoolgirl she came across a book about bridge building and was inspired. Choosing not to listen to negative reactions that mostly came from her school environment she forged on and studied civil engineering in the University of Newcastle. Christine is a now a chartered civil engineer with experience in both construction and education having supervised major construction projects and helped in the development of national adult skills projects for the Basic Skills Agency. Combining these two passions, Christine is currently the Executive Director of Construction Youth Trust, and actively works with the industry to support young people from all backgrounds to inspire and enable the next generation of constructors. Through the Trust she has not only been committed to helping more young people facing forms of disadvantage to reach construction related professions, but also to promote the industry as much as possible to more young women; helping to challenge the gender bias that is still profound in the industry.


Babes 

Name: Babes

Job: Quantity Surveying work placement at Graham Construction

Babes joined a Construction Youth Trust Budding Builders course in August 2015:

What made you enrol on the course with Construction Youth Trust?

At school I had focused on Business Management and Finance but I didn’t feel that either would lead to a clear career – I didn’t want to qualify and come out of university without a job or clear path

What attracted you to the course?

I thought I might like to try plumbing or engineering but the course gave a really good broad overview of the skills and potential career opportunities in construction

What are you doing now?

After the course finished Construction Youth Trust managed to organise me a work placement with Graham Construction. The Budding Builders course helped me to work out that I was interested in Quantity Surveying and then helped me to find a work placement.

What do you enjoy about working in Construction?

All of it! I have a really supportive team around me who are helping me to develop my skills, some I didn’t know I had.

What advice would you have for Women and Girls interested in getting into Construction?

Talk to people, find ways to experience things first hand. Construction careers are rewarding, real jobs and they are definitely not just for boys!


Wendy Heller

London-born Wendy began her career in construction over twenty years ago.

With the support of pioneering trades-women such as Takumba Ria Lawal from Women’s Education in Building, and Clare Potter from Peabody Housing Trust, Wendy was able to complete a joinery apprenticeship and forge a career as a site carpenter.  

Since then Wendy’s skills have taken her all over the world including a period in the USA, working on high end ‘Brownstone’ refurbishment projects in New York City and as a scenic carpenter for the film and music industry. In later years, Wendy graduated from the London College of Furniture and has created many bespoke pieces for various clients.

Now as Training, Development and Curriculum Manager at the Construction Youth Trust in London, Wendy seeks to inspire and provide skills education for young people looking to build a successful career.

She vehemently rejects the misconception that vocational jobs are for people lacking in academic aptitude, and works to encourage more women into the trades. 


Rute Silva

Age: 17

From: Portugal

Job: Engineering  work placement at Kier

 

Rute joined a Budding Brunels course in July 2015:

1.What are you studying?

I study engineering and I love it. I realised from young age that engineering is my passion and the Budding Brunels experience confirmed that.

2.What were the highlights of your placement?

Firstly, it was a great fun. I had the chance to meet some very cool professionals. It was a valuable and interesting experience as I was working for three days on site. Also, I was assigned to help the professionals with some important projects, which led to a positive impact to the community.  I strongly recommend it to everyone!

3.What are your plans for the future? 

After college, I would like to study engineering at the University of Kingston.  During that time, I will definitely pursue more work experience placements and internships.

4.How has Budding Brunels helped you to get where you are now/ decide what you would like to do in the future?

The Budding Brunels course helped me a lot to develop my skills set, for example communication and presentation skills. Importantly, through the course I had the opportunity to explore and discover other aspects of engineering.


Beth West, Commercial Director at HS2 gave an interview to the Trust to support our #NotJustForBoys campaign.

 

Beth considers one summer she spent in Croatia a real benchmark for her career.
Having studied politics and economics in the States where she is from, she became interested in Economic development.
Beth was particularly interested to see how fighting economic hardship was key to establishing and maintaining a peaceful society and an economically secure future.
She discovered project finance as discipline which led her to realise that good infrastructure is key to the wellbeing of cities and eventually people.
Beth also worked in banking for 8 years after graduation and then was led to TFL where she worked in re-developing and regenerating assets and working with commercial laws.

In her present role at HS2 Beth is responsible for all contracts that economists use in their business cases and all things construction.
She says there was no career guidance in school in Detroit, USA where she was born and raised.
It was a combination of luck and personal choices that led her to the path where she is today as banking wasn’t something you could study in university and she didn’t have any inspirational role models at the time.
Promotion of the industry to women should be done through various levels.


One of the key ways could be to promote the social impact of the industry instead of the economic impact.
Beth is also addressing diversity on a broader level asking whether the industry has adopted the right behaviours to attract people from all groups.
What does diversity mean? We don’t actually allow people to be diverse as we always try to fit everyone in the same box. Diversity means inclusion and listening is key in recruiting people.
She also talked about the matter of flexibility for which she believes that should not be entirely connected with women as everybody wants more flexible hours.

“We need to think hard about how we work, if we make the most out of technology but also keep in mind whether we put time and effort into meeting people”. 

What Beth would say to her 16yr old self? You don’t have to decide forever.
Work experience placements is key, the longer the better. In US you have very long holidays so you can get a summer job which can be very beneficial.
Advice she would give young people:

Try many experiences. Talk to as many people as you possibly can. Be curious. Ask questions and get to know people. Sometimes unpleasant experiences can open up new opportunities. Beth was led to project finance after taking a disaster job in an economic development agency. The UK education system doesn’t do enough to let kids sail and try out experiences.

HS2 is a publicly open organisation. Through its website and social media channels young people can access a careers portal through which they can apply for apprenticeships and work placement opportunities.


Aoife Drury, Military Programme Manager

As part of International Women’s Day celebration our Military Programme Manager Aoife Drury is sharing her experience with us of what is like to be a woman in two male dominated sectors: construction and the military. 

Following completing my BSc in Psychiatric Nursing in Ireland I moved over to commence my Masters in War and Psychiatry in Kings College London before starting my role here at Construction Youth Trust. I am the manager of The Trust’s Military Programme which initially started as a pilot called BuildForce almost two years ago. I started as a coordinator in the project which included developing material, running events and placement opportunities.

I had no prior knowledge of the construction industry and when I started the job I felt overwhelmed with the amount of information I had to learn. This was particularly evident when trying to secure placements and job opportunities for Service leavers. I found myself struggling to match skills to the appropriate positions.

It has been interesting working in two male dominated industries. There were occasions, particularly at events and meetings where I felt overwhelmed. But with the confidence in my professional capabilities and the knowledge that I possessed, it was never a case that I should be unnerved or doubted myself.

As women in male dominated industries it’s important that we understand our worth and have faith in our competences. While the challenges as a woman in both construction and the Military are real they are not insurmountable. Overcoming such obstacles means ensuring that you have a complete passion for your work, a drive for what you believe in, and the integrity to keep moving forward when things get rough.


Sally Varley, Senior Business Development Manager at Carillion plc

Sally gave an interview to the Trust to support our #NotJustForBoys campaign as part of the International Women's Day celebration.

Sally was inspired to join the construction industry when she was leaving the RAF. Carillion offered work placement opportunities for service leavers and she benefitted from time to view the construction part of our business as she could see a similar environment to that she had enjoyed working on airfields in the RAF.

Sally now works in Business Development for the Defence Sector. Her role involves investigating business opportunities in the defence and security and working with a team to propose solutions to meet the client’s requirements.

Starting her career in construction, she didn’t have any role models from the industry but she knew from her military career that women can work in robust industries just as effectively.

In Sally’s view the industry can promote diversity within its workforce by dispelling myths whilst young people are still in school and encouraging people from a wide range of abilities to take a closer look at construction, engineering and technical opportunities.

What advice would you have for your 15 year old self in relation to career choices and options?  Get some work experience in the area of work that you really find attractive.

For young people who want to learn more about Carillion Sally recommends that the best place to start learning about Carillion is the Carillion web pages: http://www.carillionplc.com/careers.aspx. Carillion has opportunities for apprentices, graduates, service leavers as well as those looking for a move to a new organisation. 

What does success look like in your role and for Carillion?  For me success is achieved through delivering quality solutions for clients and taking the lead and responsibility for projects and programmes. I hope this will lead to promotion and progression in my new career.