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International Women’s Day: Development & construction

International Women’s Day: Celebrating women in development & construction

The Pioneer Group believes that diversity, equality and inclusion are key aspects in its work to make lives and communities better. In celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March, The Pioneer Group caught up with a few strong, female leads that are pathing their careers in a typically ‘male dominated’ industry.

We spoke to Mia, 18, a BTEC student in Construction and the Built Environment at Solihull College, who is just one of just three females in her class. She recently undertook a work placement at JHD Partnership Housing, a full-service housing developer and contractor.

During her placement at JHD Partnership Housing, Mia had the opportunity to shadow Managing Director, James Dawson, as the firm delivers a new development of 14 apartments at 411 Slade Road, Stockland Green. She worked closely with the on-site project manager there, watching construction projects come to life, and assisted with tasks on and off-site. In the future, Mia is hoping to secure an apprenticeship and undertake further education at a university part-time.

Aspiring to be a role model to other girls wishing to pursue a career in construction, she believes that if we are to bridge the gender gap in the industry, information on opportunities within the sector needs to be readily available to girls early on at school.

Mia said:

My time at JHD Partnership Housing has inspired me to become a Project Manager. Coming from a family that has always been in the construction business, I’ve always been interested in the industry. I’ve been lucky in that everyone I’ve met has been supportive of my choice to pursue a career in what is usually considered to be a male-dominated sector. Construction is a huge industry with a variety of segments to appeal to different skills and interests, and it also pays well. My advice to other women who are interested in a career in construction is to be strong and understand that their voices are just as important as their male colleagues… and just go for it!

James added:

JHD is in partnership with The Pioneer Group, and it’s been great to be able to help Mia on her career path and we’re really pleased with her work. JHD is a keen supporter of women in construction and encourages diversity in every area of our industry.

To find out more about pushing these stereotypes, we also spoke with Kellie Hendrickson, Development Officer at The Pioneer Group. Kellie has been in her role for 18 months, splitting her time between working from home and on-site, and is also currently working on 411 Slade Road.

From an early age, Kellie has been interested in construction and went on to study Building Surveying. She found that her degree helped to decide on a specialist field and gave her a lot of general construction knowledge. Firmly believing that all genders are equal, Kellie was unconcerned that her industry of choice has a lower rate of female representation. She encourages any women to do the same and feels it is important for them to be represented in all fields.

Kellie said:

I’ve been encouraged by The Pioneer Group to further my knowledge and experience. Our Chief Executive, Simon, even recommended that I complete a course in Manchester for development professionals. Seeing women in dominant roles within the company such as my manager, Claire Orpwood, is empowering and shows other women that there are just as many pathways for us.

I will be celebrating International Women’s Day by making sure all of the women in my life are appreciated and celebrate their achievements.

We also caught up with Claire Orpwood, the Development Manager at The Pioneer Group.

Claire has been in development for more than 25 years, with her most recent role with the Group for the past 18 months.

Claire first got into the development sector through an administrative role and stayed in the construction industry ever since. Formerly, she has worked for a double-glazing company where the factory workforce was 100% male, moving onto a gas heating company where the only females were in the office.

Claire’s advice to young women hoping to secure a job in construction is to explore all options available to them. This can be via education at college, university, work placements, work experience, shadowing, apprenticeships or sponsored training at work. Claire believes that experience and shadowing is always a good option for those who would like a ‘taster’ of the industry.

Since joining The Pioneer Group, Claire’s biggest achievement so far has been part of the team which delivered a mixed tenure development of 83 homes during the pandemic. Although faced with the challenges of COVID-19, the team managed to occupy and sell all homes within target timescales.

Over the last ten years, Claire believes that things have changed in the construction sector for women, especially as they are encouraged more to take STEM subjects at school. She also shares that she is pleased to see a higher level of female representation now both on-site and in senior roles.

Claire concluded:

It’s fantastic to be part of an organisation that actively encourages women in the housing and construction sectors through the availability of training, development and mentoring. The specific course that our Development Officer, Kellie Hendrickson mentioned, will assist her journey into the world of development.

Claire will be celebrating International Women’s Day by enjoying the role she’s in and thinking about all the women who encouraged her and made it possible.

Mia, Kellie and Claire are just three outstanding examples of empowered females that The Pioneer Group are encouraging to achieve their potential in their sector of choice. The Group has a firm commitment to inclusivity and will always encourage others to reach out to discuss pursuing their ambitions.