As we mark International Women’s Day, seven senior managers at Bewley Homes offer their thoughts on a career in the industry.
We asked Elaine Stratford (Sales and Marketing Director), Chloe Lyons (Head of Customer Services), Angela Terrett (HR Manager), Charlie Brown (Senior Land Manager), Emily Corfield (Development Manager), Debbie Williams (Part Exchange and Sales Contracts Manager), and Lucy Gray (Marketing Manager) what they are proud to be supporting this important day.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Debbie: It’s a celebration of how far we have come in life. The struggle women before me had to overcome has paved the way. We now have female leaders in all walks of life and the sky’s the limit. My mantra is ‘don’t say we can’t because we can’.
Lucy: For me, it provides a much-needed space to ensure our voices are heard and celebrated, and that we can build in further opportunities for permanent, growing involvement of women at all levels, particularly development to board level. There is still a huge gap in the construction industry for women in the board room and we are all pushing the way forward to close that gap.
Who are your role models in the construction industry and why?
Emily Corfield: Jennie Daly – CEO Taylor Wimpey. Jennie’s appointment as the first female CEO of the national house builder has shown me that anything is possible for women within the construction industry. With a similar academic background, and experience in land and planning, seeing someone ‘like me’ represented in the industry allowed me to visualise potential career paths. I attended the RTPI International Women’s Day event in 2022 where Jennie spoke and it opened my eyes to the wealth of opportunity in the construction industry for women.
Chloe Lyons: Kath Moore, MBE, Managing Director of Women into Construction, for her promotion and support of women into a career in the industry.
How do you think schools should help girls identify construction as their career path?
Emily: Having undertaken outreach work with schools in a previous planning role, I believe girls need women they can relate to going into schools as role models, doing construction-based activities and encouraging girls to following in their footsteps. They need to see us to know we exist!
Charlie: By first dispelling the idea that only men work in the construction industry. Making them more aware of the variety of roles there are on offer, the different ways in which they can get into the industry and positively promoting the many female role models we have.
Angela: Equality and diversity plays such a large part in our lives these day and all genders are encouraged to ‘be whatever they want to be’. Schools should also invite more construction companies to their career days.
What are the rewards and benefits of working in construction?
Emily: Providing people and communities with much needed places to live and work. The variety of work, no day is the same – for example, in land we are working with all other areas of the business (finance, technical, sales, commercial, construction…) and a variety of technical consultants from ecologists to engineers.
Angela: The benefits can be from working in the open air to being part of a team building sustainable houses for the future and working with incredible people.
Chloe: It’s an ever-changing environment which makes it exciting, there is always so much to learn and develop your skill set.
Are there good opportunities to have a great career rather just a job in construction?
Emily: Yes – in every arm of the business there are fantastic opportunities for careers and support with training and progression.
Lucy: Yes – we are encouraged to proactively put goals in place for our career progression and steps to achieve our goals with regular check ins.
How do you encourage other women in the workplace to progress their careers?
Debbie: Be tenacious and keep banging on the door. You will be let in!
Angela: Training and development reviews. Identifying talent for the future needs of the business.
Emily: To invest time in professional development to improve skills, and also, to be confident asking for more work and variety of experience (even if inter-departmental)
Chloe: Helping women realise that they have as much an equal part to play within any area of construction, allowing those who wish to progress the opportunities to allow for growth. For me the biggest game changer was spending time on site getting to know the site teams and trades this allowed my confidence to grow and find my own area that I could have an impact on.
What do you enjoy most about working in the industry?
Debbie: In my role, no day is ever the same. I have a voice and my opinion is taken seriously. This year, given the economic climate, will be tough but we will keep going.
Emily: The variety of work and the challenge – it’s hard work, but lots of fun, there are always new problems to solve and it is rewarding see sites which started as a blank sheet of paper, under construction and people living in their new homes.
Chloe: The variety, no day is the same and its always evolving with new ideas and ways to be more sustainable and provide and excellent product.
Charlie: The variety of the work where no day is ever the same. I enjoy the opportunity to work closely with other departments and together, bring forward new and exciting developments.
Why does the property industry need more women?
Angela: So we have a more diverse workforce and get away from the perception that construction is for men.
Emily: More women in property would provide role models to encourage girls coming up through education. Increased diversity in general would introduce different ways of thinking and approaches to problem solving which I believe creates more effective teams.
What barriers or challenges have you overcome in the industry?
Emily: Networking opportunities can sometimes be a bit exclusive, and male dominated. However, only by putting yourself ‘out there’ and getting involved does anyone tap into these circles (whoever you are!). I’ve found managers, colleagues and external partners have always been very accommodating of introducing people new to the industry or business to their networks and helping everyone to get involved.
What’s your proudest moment in your career?
Chloe: Stepping into my current role as Head of Customer Services. It has allowed me to grow and show what I am capable of and develop personally and professionally.
Emily: Winning the annual Pride of Bewley ‘Always Growing Award’ for commitment to my professional development and for being elected as a Chartered Member of the RTPI back in 2021. Winning the award is also an example of the support in the industry for women to develop professionally.
Elaine Stratford said: “It is wonderful to see the key positions held by ladies within our business at Bewley; a diverse range of roles, experience and ages. Having joined a medium housebuilder similar to Bewley, at the beginning of my career, I was able to work my way up through a range of roles from administration, site sales, part exchange and then management roles, whilst also taking on colleague courses in marketing.
“I believe that attitude and passion are an integral part of success, no matter where you start on the ladder – often the greatest barrier is how we think of ourselves and hold ourselves back from opportunities. Ladies – it can be done, as the examples above clearly demonstrate.”