Meet a member: Karen Fairhurst MCIOB
The construction manager at Morgan Sindall and winner of a CMYA award talks to CM.
Which project are you most proud of?
My first scheme as a project manager was at St Hilda’s Church of England School in Liverpool and I was very proud to have been involved in and influence the scheme from concept to completion.
I have been very lucky to work on a variety of schemes from hospitals, to university science and residential buildings, to sports stadiums with historic facade retention, leisure centres and schools. Every project brings its own challenges and opportunities to grow and develop your skillset.
What has surprised you most about working in construction?
How enjoyable it is! I love the fact that we create something with tangible results that has a positive impact on communities.
Every day is different, in construction you’re constantly learning and there’s great variety in roles and the people you work with. It’s a real team effort but you’re able to provide influence throughout the process.
As a woman in construction what are the challenges you have faced? Do you feel the industry does enough to change attitudes and encourage more women?
I think it’s sometimes the case that as women we feel that we have to prove ourselves and our abilities to be accepted as capable, whereas a male colleague may automatically be perceived as able to do the job.
However, it has been my experience that I’m afforded equal respect by both male and female colleagues. As soon as people realise you are knowledgeable on the subject any predetermined bias is normally eradicated.
Improvements are being made but I don’t think the industry is doing enough to raise awareness and encourage more women into the wide variety of roles available. It’s important to raise awareness for people who perceive the industry as only outdoor or manual work – there is a role for everyone.
How would you like to see construction promoted to younger people, particularly females?
The industry is making big steps to improve its engagement with schools, educating children about the opportunities available, different routes into the industry and promote that it’s a great career option for both genders.
Schemes such as the STEM Ambassadors are great tools that enable schools to also engage with industries and get support.
What one thing would you change about the industry?
One area that could easily be improved is designing PPE clothing to fit women better.