My career in housing began in the mid 1990’s, my first ‘proper’ job out of university. I worked for The Housing Corporation in an admin role, managing a portfolio of housing associations; processing paper applications for new schemes and managing cashflows amongst other things. This whet my appetite for development, as the role had given me an insight into the development process and the many challenges that came with it, so I pursued my new found goal of working for a housing association and started my career in development which has now spanned more than two decades!
As a young, inexperienced female Development Officer in the late 1990’s, I had a lot to learn about construction. Managing development schemes requires periodic site visits and I found these intimidating to say the least. Back then, site cabins were often decorated with models from page 3 of a certain newspaper (awkward) and coupled with my lack of knowledge, I felt way out of my depth and although there were many questions I wanted to ask, I didn’t want to appear stupid, so just nodded at the appropriate times making a mental note to look something up later.
Fast forward 20+ years and there have been improvements; the construction industry has cleaned up its image to a certain extent, but women are very much still in the minority on a construction site. I don’t recall ever seeing a woman working on site in a role such as plumber/electrician/ brick layer, but more recently I’ve not been the only woman at a site meeting. Women have been represented on the contractor side in roles such as quantity surveyor and I worked with a female Employers Agent recently.
As for me, well, I’m no longer a young Development Officer, but I do have many years of experience behind me. I’m happy to ask what might be perceived as a stupid question and I really enjoy my visits to site, no longer feeling intimidated, but even after all these years, I’m still usually the only woman on site. Between 1996 and 2020, women in the construction industry has generally hovered at between 9-10%. Addressing gender inequality in our society has made many in-roads in the last 20 years, but clearly not in the construction industry. There is still a long way to go.