Job spotlight: Gemma Booth, Assistant site manager, Redrow Homes
Gemma Booth spent 11 years ‘on the tools’ before studying for her degree in Building Management and Surveying on a night course and embarking on a career in construction management.
How does your experience in ‘management’ differ from being a trade?
My experience as a painter and decorator was very challenging as an apprentice. I was the first woman at my college to study it back in 2000 – and I felt I had to be three times better than a man, in a male-dominated industry. There were no facilities specific to women back then.
I found I was very popular with customers and clients, and most of my colleagues accepted me and were encouraging. But there were always one or two that disagreed with me working in a male-dominated industry – saying I wouldn’t be able to work as hard and lift heavy materials, carry ladders or work from heights. I proved them all wrong.
“Times have changed for women in construction now, as we have the facilities we need and a positive attitude on site towards us as a diverse industry, encouraging females to join. There will always be a tiny bit of controversy – but nothing is perfect.”
This motivated me to aim higher. I am now an assistant site manager and have found that I am taken seriously as a woman with the majority of the site team and supply chain.
There will always be one or two people who are old school, but that isn’t necessarily because I am a woman – it is because I am not as experienced as others. I get support from the team on my site to help and train me to become a great site manager and a role model to others.
How challenging was it making the move into management work?
I found it exciting and felt that I had a new challenge ahead. However, the mindset is so different – and difficult – now that I am delegating, organising and managing other people through a five-year programme of building works and not just my own work on a day-to-day basis.
I found managing my own time and work much easier than managing others and making sure the trades complete the works you ask them in the time required, but that is an experience I am learning.
Do male colleagues support you?
Most of the lads help me, teach me and complete the works I ask of them, which gains me more experience to become a site manager in the near future.
Times have changed for women in construction now, as we have the facilities we need and a positive attitude on site towards us as a diverse industry, encouraging females to join. There will always be a tiny bit of controversy – but nothing is perfect.
The future is about diversity and inclusion: I believe that a balance of men and women will be the key to future successful construction on and off site and a solution to the skills shortage.