I have spent more than 20 years in the facilities management sector working for several major firms in business development, sales, and customer relations roles.
I just fell into engineering. I was working in gaming for PlayStation distribution house Centresoft when my Dad became ill and I moved back to Stoke to be closer to home and joined local firm George S. Hall in a customer relations role.
Their md at the time was Chris Keneally and Jamie Reynolds was commercial director. They made engineering interesting and back then the industry was developing so quickly, with data and commercial models; multi-service contracts, integrated service, FM, intelligent client interface, EMEA, global etc. etc. It was an exciting time and I was working with a vibrant team.
I love the diversity of the tasks. I have benefitted from being in the right place at the right time and always grasped any opportunities that presented themselves. I’m truly grateful to those who gave them to me – not least the FM giant ISS where I spent two years running the property assets of a number of major City of London institutions, followed by moving out of sales for the first time and into operations at Kier.
I would definitely encourage other women to follow in my footsteps. You must be authentic, be brave; if you want it, go and get it. It’s a colourful and varied industry with lots of diverse opportunities; where you can be anything you want to be.
And things are looking up…
The number of women working in engineering professions has increased significantly in the last decade, according to research carried out by EngineeringUK. Women now make up 16.5% of the engineering workforce compared to 10.5% in 2010 – so that’s progress, but it is still a very small proportion if you consider that women make up half the population.
Part of the solution must be about positivity. We are not very good at shouting about the great stuff we do, the cool stuff. As a result, many women have a negative image of the sector – yet my career in engineering has allowed me to travel the world and get involved in some amazing, exciting projects. It has also taken me onto the board of this great association BESA – and I am now vice-president too.
I have also given presentations in some of the largest boardrooms in the world. I have worked in Asia, the US and even the Caribbean (and that was a pest contract!). I have stood, tied on, open to the elements on the 60th floor of the Shard during construction; and I have seen the drill that mined Crossrail.
We tend to talk about ‘tackling’ diversity as if it is something we can take on and confront, but I think it should be more about making the right recruitment decisions. If you always pick the person best suited to the job, then over time more people will see they can advance in this industry. That means setting some prejudices and preconceptions aside to let talent reach the top.
I am not in this job because they wanted to appoint someone from a ‘minority’. I know that [the founder] Bill Harrison picked me because he recognised that I am the right person for the job. And regardless of my gender people have been great to me. If I was really honest I’d say it’s the women who are sometimes harder on other women. I refuse to be that woman – I’ll give anyone a hand-up who wants to grow regardless of any label.
INWED and other profile-raising initiatives are important because they help to promote the mass of diverse, well-paid opportunities in the sector for emotionally and commercially savvy people to take advantage of.
All the opportunities are there for a fulfilling, prestigious career; so, let’s get the message out there.