Senior Pre-contract Design Manager, L&Q
My earliest ambitions were to be an archaeologist, an astronaut, a forensic pathologist or an architect. When I discovered that chemistry and physics were not my best subjects, I decided to follow the architecture route. I can remember building models, mostly of Lego, plastic or card, and challenging gender stereotypes from the age of eight.
I won a scholarship to a public girls’ school. I went on to gain my first degree (RIBA part 1) at Portsmouth, studied for my second degree (RIBA part 2) at Nottingham and achieved a chartered management qualification whilst working.
At my first practice, I was the first woman to work in the architectural side of a very traditional company. During my time there I had my two children. We cut our teeth with pregnancy and nursing mother risk evaluations, breastfeeding during the working day, maternity leave and part-time working. All of these were regarded as inconveniences but I made sure I knew my rights and didn’t take advantage.
On the whole, the construction industry has come an enormous way since my earliest days. I can remember going into site cabins where pictures of naked women lined the walls. I was most likely to be asked to make the tea.
My current role at L&Q is very different from most of the others I’ve had at construction companies, where I was a ‘coal face’ design manager. I would work on live schemes, mostly post contract, and focus on the cheapest possible build and the shortest possible programme.
The principal difference here at L&Q is one of ethos. Due to our social purpose, our primary goals are not to build as cheaply as possible, make massive profits and move away from schemes after they are sold. Instead, we aim to build most efficiently to suit all L&Q stakeholders, in order to minimise running and maintenance costs. We put our surplus back into the business and this works because we have no shareholders and a massive asset base to borrow additional sums against economically.
My team are mainly office-based and work on a wide variety of projects. It could be a seven-home assisted living block or a 950-home scheme, or a project with mixed-use elements which include a leisure centre, library, retail and commercial units.
I really enjoy working for L&Q and encouraging my team to develop. I like being part of a company with a social purpose. It’s a friendly place to work and offers great opportunities for progression.
I would encourage any women thinking about working in the construction industry to go for it. This is not solely a man’s world any more. Your hard work will be rewarded and you will, eventually, find your niche. You just have to be less concerned about following an idealistic route to achieve your goal.
“Getting engaged, married and having children doesn’t necessarily mean a female is less committed to their role than a male counterpart.”