IWD2022: Breaking the Industry Bias

March 8, 2022

Happy International Women’s Day!

This year the focus is on creating a gender-equal world – a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. Together we can #BreaktheBias to encourage a gender-neutral mindset and continue to challenge gender stereotypes in the construction industry.

Though the number is steadily rising each year, currently women make up just 14% of construction industry professionals and only 28% in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce.

At Acorn, we are proud of the fact that over 40% of our employees are female. From Finance to Marketing and Sales to Construction, we are pleased to offer a diverse range of roles which many of our female employees fill. Our board of directors also features roles held by women including our Chairman, Group Managing Director, Funding Director and Group HR Director.

To celebrate IWD2022, we interviewed three women who have recently joined the team: Regional Buyer Annika Pittaros, Senior Quantity Surveyor Naomi Beckett and Design and Development Manager Jacqui Macqueen. Learning what attracted them to Acorn, who influences and inspires them and their advice for getting into the industry.

1) What attracted you to apply for your role at Acorn?

Annika: The focus on design, delivery of bespoke good quality housing and a great company ethos.

Naomi: The individuality of Acorn’s sites and attention to detail initially caught my eye.  It’s also refreshing to be part of a forward-thinking company with an interest in alternative construction processes to positively reduce our carbon footprint.

Jacqui: I found the company’s culture and commitment not only to good design but sustainability and well-being, compelling.  I worked with Acorn’s Design Director and Sustainability Champion Julian Hampson in the mid-nineties, back then he was already concerned with environmental issues, and often voicing problems that are now mainstream front-page news.

I was also attracted by the opportunities and creative potential of Acorn’s collaborative work with landowners, local authorities, charities, and JV partners with their track record of adding value for all parties whilst delivering award-winning sustainable homes and communities.

2) How are you settling into your role?

Annika: I am settling into my role well; the company has a good friendly culture which helps. We have a lot of new site starts this year which is challenging but exciting.

Naomi: Since joining the Acorn Cardiff team in January, I have been lucky enough to get stuck straight into several very exciting projects. Everyone has been very supportive and collaborative working has helped with getting up to speed.

Jacqui: As a recent joiner it was a case of hitting the ground running on one of the more complex and challenging London sites. The team have been very supportive, and I have thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of getting to grips with and helping move this very exciting project forward.

3) How does Acorn challenge gender stereotypes in construction?

Annika: Acorn has a forward-thinking approach to its employees and promotes women in a range of roles at different levels.

Naomi: Acorn provides equal opportunities driven by individual ability. This can be demonstrated at varying levels and disciplines within the business structure.

Jacqui: I think there is no better way than leading by example, 40% of Acorn’s employees are female in a wide range of roles including importantly at board level. Seeing women in positions of authority in the industry is powerful.

4) Are there any female role models or influencers who inspire you within the industry?

Annika: Sarah Guppy who modestly provided her patented designs for a suspension bridge to Brunel for free which influenced the final design. She was the first woman to ever patent a bridge.

Naomi: Having been in the industry for nearly seven years, I’ve worked alongside some uniquely inspiring women including tradeswomen, site managers, commercial, technical, land, sales, and customer care. There is an underlying sense of support between women in construction, which is empowering.

Jacqui: I am inspired by the architect Alison Brooks and her passion for urban regeneration and residential work, pushing for better quality design in the housing sector to ensure an improvement in quality of life for thousands of people.

After winning AJ Woman Architect of the Year 2013 she said: “I think of myself as being an architect, and not a female architect… I hope the ‘novelty’ of being a female architect, the shock in people’s faces when I say I’m running my own practice will soon wear off. Their shock represents the low expectation society has of women.” I agree with her sentiment and share her hope that the ‘novelty’ of being a female architect …or engineer or QS or project manager, wears off soon.

5) What advice would you give to women who are looking to get into the industry?

Annika: Don’t be afraid to be ambitious in this industry there are a lot of interesting roles that you can look into. Study or look at courses related to the industry if you have the opportunity to and if you feel nervous about networking look into associations such as Women in Property where you can meet interesting people in the industry to help you along your way.

Naomi: Just go for it. Construction is an exciting industry to be a part of and can be incredibly rewarding. The varied roles available attract people from a diverse background with differing experiences and skillsets. My advice would be to never be afraid to ask questions – the majority of people within the industry are incredibly encouraging.

Jacqui: If you are interested in being part of a team orientated industry, where you never stop learning, that’s both challenging and hugely rewarding – Go for it! PS be confident, be curious and be yourself.

If you’d like to work for a multi-award-winning growing housebuilder with over 25 years of experience, take a look at our current vacancies!

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