Women CMYA medallists: how the awards bring a career boost

23 February 2016

Three former winners say that winning an award brought them greater professional recognition.

As the CIOB acknowledges, women are currently underrepresented in the CMYA awards. But for those women who have reached the final, CMYA success brought professional recognition.

Three former winners tell their stories in a blog for the CIOB website, aimed at encouraging women in site and project management roles to seek nomination for the 2016 awards. The closing date for nominations is 7 March. 

In 2008, Sarah Morton of BAM became only the second woman to win a CMYA medal – the honour first went to Betissa Ryan of Bovis LendLease in 2003. Morton’s project, phase three of Lancaster University’s Environment Centre, presented a series of complex challenges, and was her first project manager appointment.

"Lots of women that I didn't know came up to me and said they were rooting for me."

Sarah Morton, BAM

"There are still a disproportionately large proportion of male project managers."

Julia Howard MCIOB

"I really enjoy the range of people that I deal with on a day-to-day basis, from the client to subcontractors to my own team."

Leanne Broderick, John Sisk & Son

She remembers the awards night for the widespread support she received both from BAM colleagues and from the packed ballroom at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel. “Lots of women that I didn’t know came up to me and said they were rooting for me, even though their husbands were up for an award,” she said.

Morton quickly moved to bigger projects, then was promoted to preconstruction manager at BAM. She joined Willmott Dixon as frameworks manager four months ago.

Julia Howard MCIOB, formerly of Wates, took silver in 2013 for the Royal Hill School in Greenwich, south London, the refurbishment of a Victorian school building plus a new steel frame extension.

Now a project manager at Interserve, Howard believes that winning a CMYA medal was a good career move. “This is a relatively small industry. Getting CMYA recognition definitely raises your profile. It’s great to have on your CV and is valued by employers,” she said.

Leanne Broderick of John Sisk & Son is the most recent winner, securing a silver medal for Phase 2 of the Rathbone Market apartments in Canning Town in 2015.

This was Broderick’s first project as a construction manager, but she oversaw a substantial value engineering exercise.

Entering CMYA was not something she initially considered. “I’m the type of person who prefers to be working, rather than putting myself on show,” she remembers. But, persuaded by client and employer, she underwent an hour-long interview with the judges, becoming a finalist then medallist.

“I had an amazing night. It was great recognition of what I had achieved in my career to date. It was brilliant to spend time with people that I’ve worked closely with and who supported me in my career.”

All three are keen to see more women in similar roles, and on the CMYA stage. “There are a lot more women in the industry than when I graduated 18 years ago,” says Howard. “But it’s a numbers game. There are still a disproportionately large proportion of male project managers.”

Morton anticipates new roles from BIM and collaborative working will bring more women to leadership roles. But she still recommends construction management as a springboard to other work: “My background in project delivery has helped every job I’ve done since. As a construction manager you get a handle on most aspects of the project, whether design, cost, programme or clients. All those skills will be of benefit, whatever you do next.”

Broderick adds: “This is not a job for the faint-hearted, and you have to be pretty thick-skinned at times. But I really enjoy the range of people that I deal with on a day-to-day basis, from the client to subcontractors to my own team.”

Howard agrees. “I try to communicate to everyone how exciting construction is. I’m currently working at TV studios in the south east of England and learning about broadcasting. But I’ve done sewage works and everything in between. I love the diversity of this job.”

Nominations for CMYA close on 7 March.

CIOB celebrates industry's female achievers by supporting women-only awards

The CIOB is celebrating the role of women in construction by sponsoring and supporting awards programmes that focus on highlighting women achievers in the profession.

The Institute is sponsoring the Mentor of the Year category at the 2016 Women in Construction Awards, where CIOB deputy chief executive Bridget Bartlett will also be judging one of the categories.

Now in it’s tenth year, the event aims to showcase the most inspirational female achievers in the construction and built environment industries. This year’s event takes place in Manchester on 23 March.

Bartlett, who is chair of the Construction Industry Council’s diversity panel, will also be a judge at the European Women in Construction and Engineering awards, which takes place in London on 19 May.

Speaking to Construction Manager, Bartlett said: “Both these awards recognise the diverse talent that there is in the industry. Through them we are aiming to raise the profile of the lack of diversity in the industry.”

Although some women-only awards have drawn criticism, and the CIOB’s most prestigious award the Construction Manager of the Year Awards does not have a separate female category, Bartlett believes that women-only awards are currently needed to boost women’s visibility in a male-dominated industry.

“In an ideal world we won’t need to have separate awards and separate categories,” she said. “However, with females only making up 11% of the industry, sadly we are in a position where they have a role to play.

“At present women-only awards are a necessity. When we have parity they will no longer be needed, but we are a long way away from that at the moment, so we need to do things that are proactive,” she said.

Bartlett hopes that the awards will encourage more women to put themselves forward and become thought leaders in the industry. She points out that there now no female chief executives at any of the UK largest contractors, after Anna Stewart stepped down as CEO of Laing O’Rourke at the end of last year for health reasons.

Bartlett said there are no plans to amend the CMYA. “For the CMYAs we encourage everyone to enter and of course hope to see more female winners in the future. But we won’t be adding any female-only category in the future,” she said.


Before fully retiring I spent a few years monitoring sites on behalf of the Considerate Constructors Scheme. I met a number of female Project and Site Managers and was always impressed by them - they clearly shine in what has traditionally been perceived as a male dominated Industry.
Nigel Marks FCIOB

Nigel Marks, 23 February 2016

This article highlights very well the issues women face to get recognition. I'm just left wondering if the CIOB position on CMYA is inconsistent? On the one hand "women-only awards are necessary". On the other CMYA doesn't need to change or adapt! Which is right?
In another context I said something like .....speaking as a white male in a male dominated industry maybe we need to deliberately level up the playing field for a while. When we have parity we can all adjust to the new normal. Meanwhile I just think we need to take some positive action to move things a long, otherwise waiting for this to happen by osmosis will take generations. Women, young people, ethnic minorities all need role models in the industry. We are sadly way off where we should be. And the science supports this. Studies have shown that balanced and diverse teams perform better. Time to think again....I think!

John Eynon, 23 February 2016

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