International Women’s Day 2019

Name: Brenda Quinn

Job title:  Property Finance Director

No. of years in the industry: 13 years

My role is very broad – it ranges from overseeing the entire Property Finance department to financing new & existing opportunities to tax planning to designing and delivering key reports to shareholders and everything in between.

I love being a key part in projects from inception to the final outcome. My passion is about a lot more than numbers. It’s about the why & the impact on the longer-term vision of the Group. I’m a solutions orientated person and so when all of that is in the mix, that’s when I’m at my best and that’s when work’s not work.

Has anyone not had to overcome challenges? 

For me, starting out my career as a young single parent presented many hurdles. Being female didn’t help.  I don’t think I fully understood what was happening at the time (I thought it was just me) but with hindsight, I realise that I’ve fully earned any stripes I have.

I remember at one point in particular, when I was ready to quit (something that is not in my nature) – only for my Mum, I would have, as I couldn’t see how I was ever going to make it. I was also my own worst enemy at times; in that I lacked self-belief and believe that anything less than 100% is not good enough. 

Some might say, that I’ve overcome the former hurdle! But in all seriousness, that took a lot of inward assessment and discussion with those I hold closest to me.  And still does to be fair.

I had decided whilst choosing A-level subjects that I’d be going down the Chartered Accountant route, so it was the usual Accountancy degree, followed by ICAI training & qualification with BDO Stoy Hayward in Belfast.  I always knew I wanted to be in industry rather than practice, but in those days to be Chartered you had to train in practice. A year’s secondment to an engineering company during my training cemented that train of thought.

Very simply, believe in your own ability.  And don’t be afraid to say that you are doing well to those who need to hear it.  No need to boast but do get your point across. Also, don’t take criticism so personally! And speak up – being inquisitive and challenging and providing a different point of view is what makes businesses innovative.

In accountancy, there are a lot of women joining the ranks. That’s been the case even when I qualified 18 odd years ago.  The problem is when it comes to career progression.  We are still in a male dominated environment for various reasons. But I believe that this is changing – you only have to look around to see women in influential positions.

Progressive organisations are making step changes to adapt to major shifts in working patterns.  It’s not all about women either.  We see our new generations with different expectations than what we had and if we want to attract and retain brilliant people, we must get with the programme.

My advice to women is to put yourself out there. Now is the time for change.

Don’t wait for success as you define it, to just happen. Go get it.  Don’t be afraid to fail but learn from those failures.  Don’t focus on what you can’t do but rather on what you can do.  We gain experience within & out of our working lives – women have such strength, determination and compassion – that is a deadly combination – use it!

Market research tells us that with the advent of new technology, our jobs are changing, with an emphasis on softer skills replacing the more traditional type work – this presents opportunity and I would encourage women to be ready for opportunity.

Find or be a mentor, if you can. It helps to be able to talk through ideas & concerns with someone with experience; so you know you or they are on the right path or just to obtain a different perspective.  There are initiatives in NI & beyond that are targeted to giving women insight & networks into business that may otherwise not happen – though I believe that long term we should aim for such initiatives to be gender-less; for now, they have a worthwhile purpose.

Equality of pay.  

Striking the right balance – we’re teetering on the brink of major change for women and about time, but we need to be careful that we don’t dis-empower women too – we can fight a lot of our own battles and don’t always need every comment made result in public condemnation and demanded changes to legislation. 

The good work being done just gets lost in the minute.  Work environments become sterile and everyone’s afraid to speak in case it doesn’t come out right – and ultimately that leads to a loss of innovation & productivity in the workplace.

Networking – the old boys network unfortunately is still alive – this presents a real obstacle to women in business.

Honestly, I don’t think so.  

Nothing would be worse for my sense of accomplishment to think that I only got to where I did because the numbers had to be made up. Ultimately soul destroying.  

I think that those in the driving seats now (who are mostly men) need to take note of the changing times and get ahead of the game.  Most men I know, strongly feel that we should all be on a level playing field.  The challenge is showing businesses how that is achieved and measuring the long-term benefits to the business v the short-term cost of changing who, where & when our workforce works. Technological advances have already paved the way for this – with flexible working (being able to work at any hour of the day or night to achieve set targets) and remote working being already possible and a reality. 

Name: Jordan Daly

Job title:  Aftercare Liaison Officer

No. of years in the industry: 6 years

I love working on site because every day is different, you get to widen your knowledge and get a feel for things first hand. I personally think I have learned a lot more on the practical side and seeing a job through from start to end is always an achievement.
I was pretty lucky, I never studied construction. Once I left school, I went to 6th form and studied business, shortly after I didn’t think it was for me, so I left and did part time jobs here and there. A friend made me aware that there was a position in her workplace, a building maintenance company, which I applied for and got the job and went straight into an RLO position for a social housing contract. I started with all the basic calls, arranging labour etc and then a couple years later went on to managing a team of admin and going on to site for both electrical & building purposes which included meeting the surveyors and quoting for the works using SORS and managing the invoicing. I worked on the electrical contract for 4 years, until we won a new contractor for the building which I was offered the opportunity to co-ordinate along with the contract’s manager.
Thankfully, I have not yet experienced any major challenges but if I had to note down any, it would be the fear of not knowing the right answers. When you are first placed on site with 10 different contractors it can feel very overwhelming, especially when contractors are asking you things that you are not 100% confident on. I feel like I have had to widen my knowledge and experience to get by whilst working on site which I am now in a position to say I am working comfortably.
Personally, I believe that the attitude to women working in the construction industry has changed massively over the years. Construction is still a male dominating business, however as the years go on there has been an increase of female roles across construction sites which I think all companies need to publicise more of. For example, job adverts with women trades instead of males; articles of women talking about the industry on a weekly basis – show off and promote the women who are doing well within the industry. All companies should actively promote women across platforms; social media is one of the greatest mediums for promoting awareness. Women are often hesitant of being on site, because of the image perceived of the working men and until working on a site do they understand this is not always the case but to combat this misconception we need the media to allow another image to be created to then connect better with the general public.
It is not as scary as it looks, if construction is something you would like to get in to, don’t be afraid to do so. There are loads of opportunities and chances for women to be just as successful within the construction industry if you are willing to work hard enough for it.

Name: Catherine Winters

Job title:  SHEQ Officer 

No. of years in the industry: 1.5 years

Every day is different. Working on site is great and you really feel like part of a big family!
I studied BSc Hons Environmental Health at University of Ulster. I carried out a placement year with Johnson and Johnson in 2015 as an Environmental, Health and Safety Coordinator. I graduated in 2017 and found myself job hunting in Belfast. And that’s where I fell into construction – I started off as a Graduate SHEQ Officer where I completed my NEBOSH General and Construction Certificate with Lagan Construction. I joined McAleer & Rushe in May 2018 as a SHEQ Officer working in Bournemouth.
Until I was working within the construction industry, I knew very little about it. More education in secondary schools promoting industry trades and management roles to both young men and women would be helpful.
A few… however my confidence has grown tenfold in the last year!
The construction industry is going in the right direction – it still has a long way to go to get more young females on board but do not let that put you off! Go for it – you won’t regret it!

Name: Suzanne McCabe

Job title:  Project Manager

No. of years in the industry: 6 years

My role involves the co-ordination between all the stakeholders in a project from the client through to the operatives on site to ensure that the project is delivered on time, on budget and to a high quality. Most importantly though it is to ensure that the Health & Safety is not compromised whilst trying to achieve these factors.
No matter who you are or what career you pick you will face challenges along the way. Challenges can arise on any given day and you just have to keep calm and come up with a practical solution. My biggest challenge was having to travel as I have a young child but thankfully with the support from my family and McAleer & Rushe, I am able to balance travelling for work and family life.

Following my GSCE’s, I completed my A Levels in Technology and Design, Politics, ICT and a BTEC in Construction. I then went on to do a Degree in Construction, Engineering and Management in the University of Ulster. I started my career as a junior estimator which gave me a solid understanding of contracts and commercials. I then moved from estimating into site engineering to give me the practical knowledge and understanding of the challenges involved in delivering a project on site.

Combining the commercial background with this practical experience then gave me a great foundation to begin my career in the field of project management.

The advice I would give my younger self or any young person going into the industry is most importantly surround yourself with people you can learn from and take in all they have to teach you, this can come from the Director of a company to an operative on site. Everyone has knowledge that can benefit you along the way. Also keep striving for what you want to achieve and don’t let obstacles take your focus away from achieving your goals.
I think the construction industry as a whole is a great area of expertise to get involved in as a woman. The variety of roles and opportunities are endless, and I think it is important that young people are aware of this from an early age. I think the industry is sometimes perceived as an outdoor career which some people find very off putting, but in a large percentage of construction careers this is not the case and I think the education around all the possible career paths within the industry is key to increase the number of females.

Name: Eimear Doyle

Job title:  PSenior Site Engineer

No. of years in the industry: 7 years

I decided to do construction engineering because I really loved Maths at school and wanted to have a job where I could use my skills but not be in an office all day. I saw the course at the University of Ulster, was impressed with the different areas I would be studying and once I saw the potential career opportunities in the industry, I decided to go for it. No regrets!
As cliché as it sounds, every day is different, and I love that. I like the team work, the family atmosphere on site and how we all get to know each other so well. The work can be tough at times; being part of the Site Management team is not always easy, sometimes you have to make difficult decisions and deal with difficult people, as with any job, but it’s very rewarding and I embrace the challenge. I get a lot of satisfaction seeing a project from start to finish, and I like problem solving too. On site you can be creative to find solutions, for example, when I organised the pontoon walkway for local residents when their path had to be closed. That was great because I could see something I had worked on have a positive impact on the community.
In terms of being a woman on site? I have only ever had one negative experience, and that was in my previous job at another company. Apart from that, I have never had an issue. I think in fact, being a girl on site – you get more respect from the general workforce and they listen to you more. In terms of my job – there are challenges every day, but I like them!
First of all, I don’t think many people, who aren’t in the industry, know much about the industry in general and sites which have a poor image to the public just don’t help. There is a misconception that sites are a grubby man’s world. I think this massively puts women off. PPE that is generally on offer on sites are all very designed towards men and is too big or the wrong shape for women – when in fact, there are women’s PPE available. Also, in Construction – there are so many different types of jobs that women aren’t aware of; from events management, to sustainability, and project management. I think continuing to promote a positive image of the industry and showcasing success stories will undoubtedly encourage more women to join.
The only advice I have is to go for it, be open minded, creative and work hard, because the rewards are great. There are fantastic career opportunities in Construction. It’s varied and diverse, you meet so many different people, learn about leadership and team management, and get so much satisfaction and pride in your work. I hope through my own achievements thus far in my career I can aspire other young females to work within the construction industry and break down the stereotype that it’s a male career choice.