International Women’s Day has become a diary-date for many organisations to celebrate the women that play a part in helping to shape and enhance their business. The property industry is no different.
It recently came to light that women in property make up only 22% of board positions and the pay gap stands at 30% compared to men – double the 14% for all UK companies.
Whilst progress is very much evident, with businesses creating more workspaces that are inclusive of women, it’s important to highlight examples of inspiring women that are making their mark.
So, following the all-important day that took place yesterday, we profile two women that have excelled in their respective roles in property – or construction, to be precise.
Spitfire Bespoke Homes paves the way for women in construction
With reports saying that women are expected to make up 46.8% of the construction industry by 2022, Spitfire Bespoke Homes’ female planning director, Emma Foster, explains what it’s like to have a career in the housebuilding industry.
“I was the first in my family to go to university and my interest in the industry developed from enjoying geography at school, which led me down the path of planning,” she says.
After studying an undergraduate degree at UCE – now the University of Birmingham – in Geography and Environmental Planning, Emma went on to complete a Masters in Property Development.
“Alongside my degree, I also gained some valuable work experience at a planning consultancy in the private sector,” continues Emma. “Following my work experience, I was offered a job there starting as an assistant planner and worked my way up to senior planning level.”
“When the opportunity arose to join Spitfire, I jumped at the chance to head up the planning team. I started as a planning manager, working closely with the land team. Since then, we have expanded significantly as a company, and I have been able to develop and grow the team.”
Emma joined Spitfire Bespoke Homes in 2014, working from its headquarters in Solihull to focus on premium sites in desirable locations including Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwick and Royal Leamington Spa.
In her role, Emma liaises with many different stakeholders, ensuring that no day is ever the same. She explains: “Engaging with local planning authorities, members of the public, key stakeholders and on-site teams is a huge part of my job. A lot of the time, it involves educating a range of people on our brand, company ethos and, ultimately, what we always strive to achieve.”
“In the planning team, we look at a range of new and upcoming sites as well as assisting on live sites, which we see all the way through from start to finish. I love being able to witness a project come to life and the nature of Spitfire’s product makes me really proud.”
Despite the construction environment being predominantly male, Emma recommends a career in the housebuilding industry to younger girls.
“I have definitely noticed more ladies branching into different roles within the industry. I personally work with Women in Property, a networking group involving women at various stages in their career, including many young female professionals which is excellent to see. Ultimately, communication is key and everyone at Spitfire works together to strive towards the same end goal,” she concludes.
Inland Homes is building successful women in construction
Currently, only 10% of the workforce in the construction industry is female, and Lynsey Allen, group procurement assistant manager of Inland Homes Group, details why more needs to be done to encourage more women to consider this industry as an exciting career opportunity.
Lynsey joined Inland Homes in 2018 and works from their head office in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. Having gained a Diploma in Business and Economics at West Herts College, Lynsey decided that a student lifestyle wasn’t for her.
Instead, she stepped into an apprentice position which allowed her to study whilst earning a salary and gain valuable work experience, enabling her to move up the career ladder at Inland Homes.
She explains: “When I was at school, the fact that the construction industry wasn’t something that was openly discussed as a career path made me want to look into it. My parents had instilled in me a strong work ethic; my mum worked as an architect when I was young and my dad has worked in housebuilding his whole life. He has been a big inspiration to me and my decision to work in the construction industry.”
“I do feel there is a lot more that needs to be done at an education level to get more women into the industry,” she continues. “It has certainly improved over recent years, but schools should be giving young girls the opportunity to learn more about housebuilding and the career opportunities available to them.”
“There is a natural assumption that it’s all hard hats and muddy boots – in reality there are so many roles to choose, from customer care and office work to quantity surveying, labour and obviously procurement, and there are many rewards for those who work hard.”
Lynsey’s role at Inland Homes involves many tasks – from speaking with established suppliers on a regular basis, to overseeing any stock issues and exploring potential new products for homes.
“I liaise very closely with all the internal teams – the sales team to ensure we pick the right products, the technical team to make sure that the property designs work with the products we select for the build, and from a commercial point of view, I need to take into consideration that the price point is right for us as a company, ensuring we are purchasing products that are not only competitive but are right for the development and local market.”
Lynsey is also involved in writing the development specifications listed within a development brochure, which she finds particularly rewarding, and working closely with the pre-construction team at a very early stage of the build.
“As a housing developer we are providing people with a new home, often one of the most expensive purchases they will ever make, so to be involved with selecting the products and features that go into our homes is really important,” she says.
Now in a management position with Inland Homes, Lynsey supports her own apprentice, which she says has been a highlight of her career to date.
“I love to manage people and pass on the knowledge and skills I have learnt from my own mentors. It is extremely satisfying and I firmly believe that with the right mindset and willpower, people can go far and excel in whatever career path they choose.”
One of Lynsey’s main achievements was purchasing her own house last year, which she says wouldn’t have been possible had she chosen to go to university first.
“Being able to earn an income whilst studying gave me the opportunity to save enough money for a deposit for my first home. It wasn’t easy and I did have to make sacrifices, but if you are willing to persevere, and have a passion to fulfil your goals, you can do it and Inland is a company that fully supports that initiative.”
Commenting on what the future holds, Lynsey continues: “No day is the same, and I’m lucky to have such a varied role, and that is what initially attracted me. I have a job that I love, a set routine and a career that I believe I will excel in for life. Over the next few years I would like to progress and move on to being a Procurement Manager. At Inland Homes there is certainly room for this sector to grow, and who knows, I could potentially even get to a Director level which would be amazing!”
To see more inspiring stories of women in property investment, click here.