The many faces of women in construction
A new photography project aims to highlight the many different roles of women across construction, including their views about what inspires them, and their thoughts on industry attitudes to diversity, ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March.
“The Image of Women in Construction” is a collaboration between NAWIC (the National Association of Women in Construction) London and South East and photographer Morley Von Sternberg.
The project aims to inspire the next generation by providing an insight into the women working across the industry, in many different roles and helping to shape the built environment.
As well as a portrait, each of the women featured have their own narrative, which explains what made them choose a career in construction, what inspires them in their current roles, and how the industry can change its attitudes to diversity.
More than 150 women have been photographed to date for the project and a selection of them are featured here in CM. As it progresses, the project can be followed on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #imageofwomeninconstruction or at @nawicLDN or @morleyvon
Rachael Butler, executive coach & leadership trainer
Rachael Butler works for Scaffold Leadership Coaching, which provides services to major construction companies such as Skanska. Her advice to women starting out in a career in construction is to “play the long game and don’t take other people’s actions personally”.
She says: “In my early career, I was hungry for new challenges and a bigger pay packet. In my haste for quick promotions, I left organisations that I loved working for. If I had my time again I’d focus on the good people and turn a calmer, blind eye to the bad.”
Carmen Jaimez, structural engineer, and Vikki Klette, associate structural engineer
Carmen Jaimez (left) and Vikki Klette both work for engineering consultancy BWB. An architecture graduate, turned mechanical engineer in the car industry, Klette studied part time to become a chartered structural engineer.
“I now run a team of structural engineers and technicians, delivering multi-million pound projects and offering a mentoring role to the junior members of the team,” she says.
Jen Kelly, industrial abseiler
Abseiler Jen Kelly has worked around the globe on construction projects over the past decade.
“The highs of the job – excuse the pun – are wonderful and you have access to incredible structures and views, sometimes hundreds of metres up in the air, that people would pay money to enjoy,” she says.
Kelly is also founder of the Women In Trades Network Ireland, which she says is “a way to enjoy and support one another relating to these challenges and experiences”.
Elise O’Donovan, structural engineer
A structural engineer with HTS, Elise O’Donovan says climate change is central to her vision for the future of her profession.
“We as engineers, and humans, need to respond to climate change through responsible design,” she says. “I believe that buildings of the future can and should be formed with natural building materials – such as timber and straw.
“My dream is that natural building materials will change from a niche to become the first option considered for a building project.”
Katrina Dowding, executive vice president
Katrina Dowding is executive vice president at Skanska, with responsibility for the firm’s building operations, and has seen construction attitudes towards diversity and inclusivity change during almost three decades in the industry.
“The industry has come on in leaps and bounds – the opportunities are much wider for lots of different skill sets,” she says.
“It has also become far more connected with the customers and end users and the diversity and inclusion agenda, alongside ethics, has really come to the forefront.”
Helen Gregory, assistant project manager
Civil engineer Helen Gregory works for Transport for London on some of the biggest infrastructure projects in the capital.
“My biggest motivation working in engineering and construction is seeing delivery and progress resulting from my personal efforts,” she says.
“I worked on Tottenham Court Road Station Upgrade and I get a thrill every time I walk through the station remembering it as a construction site and comparing it to the modern, functioning station it is now.”
Patrizia Pierazzo, heritage consultant
Patrizia Pierazzo works for design and engineering consultancy Alan Baxter as a heritage consultant and historic buildings archaeologist.
“My job is pivotal in providing help with the management of heritage assets and preserving the knowledge of historic buildings for the future,” she says. “I hope the passion I have for heritage will transpire in the writing of my reports – inspiring and unlocking the past for modern readers.”
Daniela Catalano, Krishna Mistry, Myrto Skreta-Krikou and Stephanie Christofi, lighting designers and engineers
The Buro Happold lighting team includes building services engineer Daniela Catalano, project lighting designer Krishna Mistry, and lighting designers Myrto Skreta-Krikou and Stephanie Christofi.
Liz Hirst, historic building conservator, and Anna Webster, architectural designer
Liz Hirst (left) is a historic building conservator who set up her own consultancy, Hirst Conservation, in 1986, while her daughter Anna Webster is an architectural designer at architect Interrobang.
Hirst says she was inspired in her career choice by her uncle and aunt, who were also conservators, and is “delighted that my daughter is an architect, continuing the family passion for the built environment”.
Webster believes that “role models are extremely important” and adds “it’s natural for young people to look to those they can identify with from generations above them for inspiration. My mum certainly influenced my choice of career.”
Marian Ferguson, building services engineer and partner
A partner with consultant Energylab, Marian Ferguson says that when she began working as a building services engineer more than 30 years ago, the construction industry’s culture was very different.
“I found the predominately male teams worked in a very traditional way, almost telling clients what they wanted rather than listening to their needs,” she says.
“Now, I champion our early involvement in projects to ensure M&E aspects can be integrated into the process, rather than forced into an already fixed design.”
Puja Bhardwaj, Selina Elmasry, Sarah Harrington, and Jo Hoggins, site managers and surveyors
Four members of Bam’s site team on the Royal Festival Hall redevelopment project in London, clockwise from the left: Puja Bhardwaj, site manager; Selina Elmasry, senior site manager; Sarah Harrington, work placement student; and Jo Hoggins, assistant project surveyor.
Wendy Lancaster, associate landscape planner
An associate at Barton Willmore, Wendy Lancaster’s passion is “being a part of the early design process, working alongside masterplanners and other specialist consultants to get the best out of a place”.
Natalie Holness, approved building control surveyor
Natalie Holness is a building control surveyor with engineering consultant MLM.
“I get to be involved in building design and I work with rules and regulations that make the built environment safe and accessible for people” she says.
“I get to interact with all the different professionals that take a building from a concept on paper, to walking through its doors on completion. It’s a unique and satisfying profession to be in.”
Amrit Seera, architecture student
Amrit Seera is an MArch architecture student at the University of Greenwich. “I’ve always been interested in the design and creative industry, so I chose architecture – and fell in love,” she says.
“In my Part I placement, my involvement in the design and construction of a small school extension project solidified my passion – there’s nothing like seeing a project go from Stage 0 drawings to completion. Also, I think it’s important for women to understand they are just as valid in such male-dominant industries.
Martine De Flander, architectural documentary photographer
A multi-disciplinary creative, Martine De Flander works with photography agency m-ART.
She feels architectural photos should be “bright and alive” and says: “I explore a building intuitively by seeing it from unusual perspectives, a more close-up shot where the viewer takes an active role in coming along this exploration with me.”
Thomasin Renshaw, director of development
Thomasin Renshaw is currently leading a major mixed-use scheme in Mayfair for Grosvenor. She believes “true diversity” is key to the future of the sector. “I would like to see people from all walks of life in our industry,” she says.
Michelle Hands, construction site engineer and project manager
Michelle Hands has had a 10-year construction career working in sectors including infrastructure and residential, with her most recent role as project manager for P&C Advisory Services.
“I have been offered many opportunities to work for different companies in challenging roles,” she says. “I have been surprised at how quickly I have been able to progress in my career based purely on my experience and ability.”