Residential Development: Women in the Industry

International Women’s Day | 8th March 2018

I’m Abby Glendinning, a Residential Recruitment Specialist for the South West, South Coast and Midlands vicinity at Thatcher Associates. We specialise in Construction Industry Recruitment, both for national PLCs and bespoke developers.

With today being International Women’s Day, I thought it would be rather fitting to throw something out into the world to celebrate women in the Construction Industry! I’ve had the pleasure to interview Suzanne Winter, Assistant Site Manager at Summerfield Developments in Taunton.

I’ve caught up with Suzanne to learn about her career within the industry and to discuss any advice that she has for women who are considering a career within Construction.

The Housebuilding Industry | At a Glance

The UK’s Private Housebuilding Industry has increased in value by around £403 million in the past five months, its highest level on record ever (0ffice for National Statistics, 2017). Despite this, population growth tied together with economic uncertainty caused by Brexit are contributing to a push within the Housebuilding Industry to satisfy the need for affordable homes. The Housebuilding Industry’s growth rate fell below 50 on the HIS Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index in January (The Telegraph, 2018), underlining the tensions between resources, need, and output.

Housing Shortage

Typically, the average UK home costs eight times as much as the average salary: meaning that increasingly, first-time-buyers are struggling to get their foot on the property ladder.

What’s being done to solve this?

Initiatives

Philip Hammond (Chancellor of the Exchequer) has detailed in 2018’s Budget that the government will build 300,000 new homes per year. Ambitious. Yet is this feasible?

Both volume and bespoke developers are already helping to meet the demand. Local councils are being encouraged to reserve land parcels for smaller developers to build on. But what about the Construction workforce itself?

Clearly, we need more involvement in the Housebuilding Industry if we are to meet the nation’s need for more affordable homes. This is where women can come in: they represent just 15% of the Construction and Housebuilding industry, and just 1% of on-site workers (Women in Property, 2018; The Guardian, 2015). If we are to hit Hammond’s target then the workforce needs to expand.

In honour of International Women’s Day, we decided to explore the experiences of one woman within the UK’s Housebuilding Industry.     

Suzanne Winter | Site Assistant at Summerfield Developments

Suzanne Winter, who started her career in the Housebuilding Industry with Pemberton Homes, and now Summerfield Developments, has kindly agreed to speak with us about her experiences.

Who are Summerfield Developments?

Summerfield Developments are a Somerset-based property development company, formed in 1987, originating from a family-run construction business. Their impressive portfolio of residential properties focuses on quality and environmental building standards, with each home being awarded an NHBC 10-year warranty. These key tenets have contributed to their strong repute in the South West. Thatcher Associates are proud to have worked alongside them on a number of key requirements. Let’s hear what Suzanne has to say.

What does she do?

Suzanne is an Assistant Site Manager.  She has worked on two landmark schemes for Summerfield Developments; Touchstone Lane (Chard) and Haygrove Park (Bridgwater). She thoroughly enjoys working alongside a more experienced Site Manager, organising works on site, coordinating subcontractors, championing health and safety and ensuring that Summerfield’s high quality standards are maintained.

What inspired her to work in Construction?

Suzanne’s parents inspired her to work in the Construction Industry; during her childhood they renovated several houses, meaning she was immersed in the world of house design and building works. For a while, Suzanne tried her hand at landscaping and garden design, before finding her true passion, working for housebuilders. She enjoys the tangibility of construction, observing progression on site and completing projects that will benefit the local population and communities.

What’s it like to be a woman in the House Building Industry?

Suzanne speaks of her experience as a woman within the Housebuilding Industry very positively. Whilst some might think being a woman on a building site would come with challenges, her experiences serve as a testament to inclusion and diversity gains made within the industry.  She is respected on site, and admired for going against the grain and developing her career in what has historically been a male dominated environment.

What does she enjoy?

The team environment and the variety: Suzanne spoke of how she enjoys being part of Summerfield’s high performing site teams and how every day is different, with fresh challenges, faces and outcomes.

Do you have any advice for women trying to get their foot in the door?

Apart from wearing steel toe capped boots (to literally get your foot in the door, and to remain safe on site), Suzanne offered some sound advice.  Choose your employer carefully.  Ask questions during your interview process and be sure that you are joining a company, like Summerfield Developments, that is committed to diversity and will offer a fulfilling career.  As a recruiter, this particularly resonates with me; interviews are reciprocal and it’s vital that interviewees get the opportunity to ask questions and understand the true culture of a company.

Suzanne’s advice, experiences and upbeat attitude should act as inspiration and motivation for other women to seek out roles within the Housebuilding Industry. There are initiatives that have been set up to address the shortage of skilled workers as well as affordable homes, as well as to give women a platform upon which to network. Let’s explore these briefly.

Women in Housebuilding | What needs to be done?

Nationally, collectives have been set up for women in the Construction Industry, such as Women in Property, Women in Construction and Chicks with Bricks. They are all designed to promote female profiles and experiences. The government is working alongside National Housebuilders to design Construction Training Schemes (degrees, BTECs, GCSEs) which will inspire individuals to access key skills and knowledge to make that initial step. If we are to address the nation’s housing shortage we need to encourage more people (women included) to choose a Construction career path from a young age, at schools, colleges and Universities.

If you want to find out about new and exciting roles within the Housebuilding sphere, or, if you are a company looking for high quality, honest advice please contact me directly on 0117 934 9555. Alternatively, connect with me on LinkedIn. At Thatcher Associates, we strive to provide individuals and companies with fresh opportunities to excel themselves permanently, personally and professionally.