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    Women in Construction – Lisa Haile – National Specification Manager

    Gareth: How long have you worked in the construction industry for and what does your role entail?

    Lisa: So, I have been with Etex for 10 years and then before that i had a job working for an insulation manufacturer so around 12 years in the construction industry. I am the National Specification Manager for the Siniat Division in Etex building performance, so I look after half of the specification team in the UK. I drive our specification growth strategy in the UK with the team, in which they support architects & main contractors on commercial projects producing technical specifications on drywall systems. I produce technical project packs myself for architects & Main contractors as well.

    Gareth: What do you see as the main difference between a sales role to a specification role?

    Lisa: So, a sales role within the drywalling industry is more predominantly geared towards the sub-contractors and pricing projects so their aim is to chase as many projects as possible, develop relationships with the installers and main contractors. The specification side is more geared towards the project opportunity but further up the top end of the chain with the architect, the main contractor, the client and all the decision makers. Asking what is the technical information on that project what we can help with, and we deliver that specification and solution to that customer. It then gets fed down to the commercial team.

    Gareth: What did you want to be when you were younger?

    Lisa:  I would say in primary school I wanted to become a midwife and I am definitely nowhere near that kind of work sector now! Throughout primary school it would have been that, then throughout secondary school I didn’t really have a clue, I was more geared towards art rather than your basic English and Maths. So I then went on to do a diploma in Art and then i thought in college okay well I’m doing Art, what can I do in the future to make money because that is the ultimate goal. To be an Artist and make money is quite difficult so I had a bit of a think and one of my projects was geared around traditional Architecture so I then really got influenced by that so I chose to do a degree in Architecture.

    Gareth: And how did you kind of get into the construction industry?

    Lisa: So, once I had done my three years Undergrad in Architecture it was the case of I either chose to do my years placement in a practice and then do 2 years master’s but at that point I just wanted to get a job. So, then I think I saw a job advertisement for a sales Manager role with an insulation Manufacturer and they were looking for a Graduate, so I applied for that and got the role so that was my step into construction. What I didn’t want to do was make my degree completely irrelevant and go into something completely different, I wanted it to be relevant to what I had done, and I felt that construction was the appropriate path.

    Gareth: Did you ever think about going into construction or did it just happen from the degree that you did?

    Yes I think it happened more through the degree that I did and I did feel that when I was doing my undergrad we didn’t really learn too much in depth about construction either so it was something that I was actually missing technically that I wanted to learn, so with actually having a job within construction you learn a lot more with a manufacturer.

    Gareth: What do you enjoy about working in this sector?

    I think this sector within the construction industry it gives you a broad range of opportunities by working for a manufacturer. Because you are within a technically driven role and your knowledge on those systems and products are going to be much more in depth than a customer would have. I do feel that it does broaden opportunities a lot more and within construction every project you work on is different…completely different from each other, you get the opportunity from one project, and you think yeah this is going to be simple and it never is, there’s always something that challenges you and I think being challenged in a role makes it more exciting and enjoyable, not everyday is the same. I wouldn’t want a job that was mundane and the same every day and you definitely don’t get that with this job.

    Gareth: Were you ever hesitant of getting into the industry as a woman?

    You know I never really thought about it to be honest with you, I never thought oh I’m a female no one’s going to take me on or anything like that. when I finished my degree in 2012 half of the group was Female and half were Male so by that time, I think a lot more Females were coming into the industry. I never really thought about It until I started meeting customers as a lot of the customers were male but I didn’t think about it initially from the beginning to be honest.   

    Gareth: When you have been on-site have you noticed the difference between the amount of women in the construction field?

    Yeah, I would say that I have definitely seen a change in the last id say five or six years, where if you are in a design team meeting on-site there are more females in the room than there originally was so I’d say I’ve definitely seen an improvement there. There are also a lot more females in the industry giving technical advice which is nice to see.

    Gareth: Is there any advice that you would give to a young lady wanting to get into this?

    I would say, I don’t necessarily see it as a barrier. I think my ethos is, if you are good at a certain role and you are passionate about that role it doesn’t matter if you’re female or not, it is about doing a good job and if you are confident doing that job. I would say that you shouldn’t be hesitant about applying for a certain role that you think is a little bit outside your comfort zone or that you won’t fit in. I think if you are confident that you can do that role then that’s the main thing.

    Gareth: How do you think an industry as a whole has changed in the last 12 years you have been working there?

    Yeah, I think I look back 12 years ago since I began in construction to now, I would say that you do on-site. you do feel much more accepted, much more comfortable, you know even if I look at our specification team I would say almost half of the team are female and half of the team are male so we have quite a nice balance between the two. I think that sets up quite a nice dynamic as well I feel, because you know men are really good at certain things that maybe females aren’t, females are probably seen to be a little more organised, so you know you kind of balance the team out quite well. But I definitely feel that it has become much more accepting, non-judgemental, embracing a change more than anything.

    Gareth: Do you feel there is more women coming into the industry whether that be from a sales , technical, architect or actually physically on-site?

    Yeah, I think there are definitely a lot more female architects that I see and deal with on a daily basis. Again, I would probably say that’s half and half now. Even QS’s that you deal with on-site some of them are female, so there is definitely a change, and I would say that is more from a design & project management point of view. When you are out on-site, I don’t necessarily see that as much actually building and installing the product systems, I don’t see that much, but I definitely see it in house within the design teams, definitely more of a female presence.

    Gareth: Have you seen this industry change from a woman’s perspective?

    Yeah. I think that more women that join the construction industry the more visible it becomes to females in school or college where they can see the number of women in the industry, if there wasn’t you might not get as many females move into that kind of industry, but I think as it becomes much more accepting it’s not taboo. I think for anyone for example when you leave college or university, and you are thinking about a job I don’t think it is taboo anymore to be like ‘oh yeah, I want to work in the construction industry’.