Written by Jack Meisinger, General Manager at Project Prospecta – A partner of Barbour ABI
One of the best ways to increase representation is to hear from the underrepresented voices of women in construction.
So, I interviewed Olivia Atkinson, Client Services Manager at Insynth Marketing, about her experience as a woman working in construction marketing.
She has had a positive experience but does have some hopes for change in the construction industry in the future. She also shares thoughts on what SME’s can do to help.
Let’s hear from Olivia:
Jack: How long have you worked in construction marketing?
Olivia: Just over 2 years. I work as a client services manager at Insynth Marketing, a specialist construction marketing agency. My job is to get the brief, oversee the campaigns, keep the client up to speed with our activity, and manage our clients’ accounts.
What appeals to you about construction marketing?
There is a lot to construction marketing. It is technical, regulations need to be considered, and there are various routes to market. That makes it interesting.
Also, there are so many opportunities to help companies grow. Exploring what we can do for them and helping them connect the dots of the buyer’s journey is exciting. Whether it is creating BIM objects, content, or continued website development, there is always something.
What has your experience been as a woman in construction marketing?
Women are underrepresented in the construction companies we work for. That is the facts.
We work with a variety of companies and construction is such a big market. I personally find that when a woman is in the company it’s easier to deal with them, however, that’s normally because they have an allocated marketing person to liaise with (which is normally a women). This isn’t to say the men are bad, they are lovely too. I’m a people person so I get on with them all of them really well, but I can understand how other women might find it challenging.
In my experience men would rather talk to a man than a woman. It may come with the hierarchy of gender. They assume that a man will have more authority. This is not always the case, but I have experienced incidents of this.
I enjoy dealing with women in construction though, but it does frustrate me that the roles they are in are mostly marketing or office management.
From your perspective why wouldn’t a woman want to be a front line worker in construction?
The space is too male dominant. Imagine going on site and being the only girl. It would be horrible. I am quite a tomboy anyway and find it easy to talk to men, but I still feel intimidated by just how male dominant construction sites are.
Also, it’s not been made attractive to females. I never learned about construction as an option in school. You only ever see men in hard hats and high vis.
I think smaller companies need to create these opportunities. Big companies do because it’s good for PR. But smaller companies need to create opportunities too for women that aren’t admin roles.
If there were more opportunities, I think you’d see more woman as frontline workers.
How do you think expectations are different from men to women?
My perception is that people expect more from women.
It may be a result of doing too good of a job. Once you do an excellent job, then it is expected from then on.
And as a woman, because of the lack of representation, you feel like you need to prove it more. Like when you’re the only woman in a meeting. You must prove that you have earned this spot and you do belong here.
So you do a good job to prove yourself, then that standard is expected from then on.
What could change to help women be more comfortable in the industry?
Be more appreciative of women. Voice praise. When something has been done well, and they have gone above and beyond, praise and recognise it, but then communicate that it is important not to burn out.
Be realistic with timings and deadlines. Because women feel that they need to prove themselves they will push themselves unsustainably.
So, communicate healthy levels of expectation, but also let them know that they should not push themselves too much or they will burn out.
If you could say anything to men running construction companies, what would it be?
Do not dismiss someone because of their lack of CV-relevant experience. Choose a person based on them as a person. A lot of people have potential and they get turned away.
Take a chance on a female that is a good fit for the company, rather than a man with a good CV.
Women want to prove themselves. Give them an opportunity and they’ll flourish.
If you had something to say to other women working on construction marketing what would it be?
What would change if women had more of a voice and shaping influence on the industry?
The whole industry would change. And it kind of already has. Dame Judith Hackett has reviewed building regulations and the rule book is wrong and it is out of date and it has loopholes.
We can do better than that.
We live in these houses and work in these buildings. Construction decisions shouldn’t be flippant. People shouldn’t cut corners just because it’s cheaper.
With more women given more responsibility I think we would see higher expectations for some of these things.
Thank you Olivia Atkinson for your time and thoughts! If you would like to check out more of Olivia’s thoughts and writing you can visit Insynth.co.uk.
Thank you to all the women in construction, and here is to a more diverse workforce in the future!