A female planning manager at Bellway North London says she has noticed a significant shift towards a more gender-balanced workforce during her decade within the construction industry.
Fiona Flaherty, 32, who joined the housebuilder last year after spending the previous nine years as a planning consultant, was often outnumbered by her male colleagues during the early part of her career.
But she insists that her gender never held her back and has issued words of encouragement for other women looking to make their way in what has traditionally been a male-dominated sector.
Fiona, who lives in Islington with her partner and commutes to Bellway’s North London divisional office in Ruislip, said: “When I started my career in planning within the construction sector, I was aware of male dominance within the industry, but I noticed it more within other specialities rather than planning.
“A lot of the individuals I worked with were men and, more often than not, I found myself sitting in meetings as the only female. However, that imbalance does appear to be slowly changing.
“About five to eight years ago, when visiting a construction site, you would see a noticeable difference between the ratio of men and women – however, in the last three to five years this has shifted.
“You can see a lot more women entering the construction industry, mostly noticeable at junior levels but this gender balance will continue to rise up the chain of command as equality and diversity continues to be championed.”
Fiona has the following words of advice for new female recruits coming into the industry.
“Don’t be put off applying for a job because of your gender. Don’t be intimidated because you think you’ll be in the minority. Stand your ground and hold your own. If you walk into the meeting and you’re the only women, don’t let it faze you. You’ve earnt your seat at the table just as much as anyone else in the room has.
“I have never felt that my gender has affected my ability to do my job and I don’t think it’s hindered my career at all. I’ve never felt I was given a job in order for a box to be ticked.”
Ali Maruf, Managing Director of Bellway North London, said: “We are always keen to highlight the excellent work being done by women within the business – and our very own Fiona Flaherty is a great example.
“As a company, Bellway employs female staff members across a wide range of job roles, from the on-site construction teams to the sales, marketing and technical departments. We strive to provide equal opportunities for all our staff, regardless of gender. Women currently represent 32 per cent of our overall workforce and we are committed to achieving an even greater gender balance in the years ahead.
“Fiona has brought valuable experience from the other side of the industry and is already proving to be a great asset to the North London division. We look forward to her continued growth within the company.”
Originally from Herne Bay in Kent, Fiona graduated with a degree in Real Estate Management from Oxford Brookes University in 2011. With the UK economy still recovering from the impact of the recession two years previously, Fiona had to bide her time before she was able to follow her preferred path working within the property sector.
She worked at a local pub, rising to management level, before the opportunity to pursue her chosen career arose a year later.
Fiona said: “The planning module was my favourite on my Real Estate Management course, and I knew it was what I wanted to focus my career on.”
She joined the Bellway North London team in the summer of last year, after the Covid-19 pandemic caused her to revaluate her priorities.
“I had worked for my previous company for around seven years, before I decided a change was needed. I had been thinking about changing jobs prior to the pandemic, but it made me look at life a little differently and ultimately was the catalyst that made the thoughts a reality.
“Before I joined Bellway, I had been working mainly in the private sector as a consultant, dealing with external clients and was hired by companies like Bellway and other large-scale developers – I occasionally worked for individuals, sometimes even celebrities. However, in this job I get to see it from the other side and can use my experience to help move things along.
“I’ve been with the company for nine months now and have really enjoyed it so far. The office has a very friendly environment, and everyone is lovely – I feel like I really belong.”
Bellway North London has developments across North London, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey and Hampshire. For more information, visit, https://www.bellway.co.uk/new-homes/north-london.
For more information about career opportunities with Bellway, visit https://www.bellwaycareers.co.uk.