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Keyline's celebrating International Women's Day!

 

Today is International Women's Day and we're proud to celebrate some of the fantastic achievements of the women that make up our team here at Keyline. 

 

Perhaps stemming from the advertising images we all saw as children, of boys playing with diggers and toy tool sets, the construction industry is stereotypically a male dominated arena. But at Keyline things are changing.

 

Following the promotion of Emma Ward to Business Development Director, Keyline now has its first female executive board member. The company recognises the need for diversity and has seen a growing number of women take up varied roles.

 

Here, we talk to Emma and some of her colleagues about their experiences of being a woman working in the industry.

 

Changing times

There have always been women working in construction, but a major shift in the type of jobs they are doing has taken place.

 

Emma explains: This is something that Holly Winder, National Sales Office Assistant Manager, agrees with. She said: “The industry is becoming more diverse with a visible increase in women occupying challenging roles, which is something we’ve noticed within our supply chain.”

 

This shift has been accelerated with new technology and equipment advancements working their way in. The introduction of innovations in mechanical handling has meant the physical nature of working at a merchant is being engineered out, thus opening up various roles to a more diverse group of people who may have previously been discounted.

 

Jennifer Abate, Branch Manager at Keyline in Perth, Scotland believes the culture of the company can also play a big role in enticing women into construction. She commented: “For me it’s not about getting into the industry, but getting into the right company.

 

 

A diverse experience

When people think about working in the construction industry, they tend to focus on the skilled trades. However, there are a huge variety of roles on offer, as Samantha Smith, Key Account Manager for Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, explains: “I’ve been in the industry for 18 years having started as a temp and then a trainee credit controller. After completing a business degree, I became an Area Sales Manager in the street furniture division and now work with landscape architects, local councils, contractors and merchants.

 

This is also something that is echoed by Charlotte Hurst, Rail Sector Office Manager. She said: “The industry has great career progression as there are so many roles in the wider business. It’s fantastic to see women getting promotions which historically would have gone to men.”

 

A positive outlook

One thing that both Emma and Lesley Rowland, Sales Office Manager for Keyline’s North West Contract Sales Office, have noticed is the flexibility the company offers, which helps ensure they have the right people doing the job. Lesley explained: “As a woman I feel Keyline are great to work for. When I came back after maternity leave, they created a new role for me which gave me the flexibility I needed as a mum to two young children.

 

“I now run the contract sales office in Preston. It was an experiment to see if the office would work and, as it proved hugely successful, we now have one more in the region, as well as offices in the south and Wales.”

 

Emma added: “The industry is adapting to meet the needs of not just working women, but also men who have young families. When I joined it was a stringent 8am - 5pm, Monday to Friday job, however now Keyline and the industry has moved towards working patterns that allow men and women to enjoy parenthood and develop a career at the same time.”

 

Christina Hopton has been promoted to the role of Regional Sales Director for the South West region and, having held both branch and external sales positions, she believes career progression can entice more women into the industry. Christina said: “After Rowlands Castle, I worked as an Assistant Branch Manager, Branch Manager and Key Account Manager, and now I hold a regional director position. If you work hard there are so many opportunities for career development to be had.”

 

In agreement with Christina is Amy Desai, Assistant Branch Manager at Keyline in Hayes. She added: “Career opportunities are widely available with diverse training paths on offer. This is enabling women to develop their own path, so they stand out and can be recognised in a male dominated industry.”

 

The future

According to national statistics, at present just 8% of skilled tradespeople in the UK are women, which is an increase from 2% in 2010. However, women are expected to make up a quarter (26%) of the UK’s construction workforce by 2021.

 

This is something that Samantha would welcome. She said: “The industry has definitely seen a growth in the proportion of women in ‘off site’ roles, such as buyers and sales representatives. However, it is still quite rare to see another woman on site, so I hope that prediction is correct.”

 

**1 Figure according to Randstad’s ‘Women in the UK construction industry in 2016’ report. You read all about them here.