A challenged world is an alert world and challenging is a key driver for change. To support this year’s International Women’s day theme #ChooseToChallenge, we spoke to successful female leaders from across the industry to celebrate the brilliance of women’s achievements in the the property, housing and construction sectors.

The property and construction industry is still a field characterised by strong gender inequality, where women are underrepresented and underpaid compared to their male counterpart.

The ability to create an industry that is diverse, inclusive and balanced partly lies with all the successful leading female professionals that have already made a name for themselves in the property sector.

Their success stories, achievements and insight become an invaluable source of inspiration for the younger generations coming into the workplace, encouraging more and more young females to pursue their careers in construction.

Meet Alison Nicholl, Head of Constructing Excellence

Founded on the principle of collaboration and very much in line with the #ChooseToChallenge theme, Constructing Excellence’s mission is to bring together individuals that strive to create some much needed positive change in the construction industry. Alison Nicholl, Head of Constructing Excellence, spoke to us about their latest initiatives.

Currently working on the Value Toolkit with the Construction Innovation Hub, Constructing Excellence are providing their input on two key elements: exploring market readiness and creating a regional value profiling model. Value profiles are weighted against a range of metrics spanning across social, economic and environmental factors, to be considered across the full investment lifecycle. Watch the video to find 0ut more.

Although Constructing Excellence is active on several different fronts, according to Alison the hardest yet most important change required to unlock innovation in the industry is a cultural one. As a sector that notoriously struggles to adopt innovation, the construction industry needs to become receptive to new ideas and agile in its ability to adopt them.

“[the new generations] are not going to put up with the kind of culture that has been the norm for many years. The culture that we need to achieve is one where we are open, transparent and we share and collaborate effectively” said Alison.

Alison’s challenge for the year ahead is towards microaggression and behaviours that alienate certain groups of individuals across the industry. As a sector that faces skills shortage, the property industry must strive to create an inclusive environment in order to successfully attract and retain people.

Meet Susan Hone-Brookes, Director of Sustainability at champmanbdsp

Susan is Vice Present of CIBSE and just took up the role of Director of Sustainability at independent design consultancy chapmanbdsp. 

Her first focus area when she joined the business was to create a vision and mission statement for champanbdsp and most importantly to update their environmental charter, which will be presented to the industry today – just in time for Earth Day 2021. Watch the video to hear the full story.

With COP26 just round the corner, Susan spoke about the pivotal role played by engineering professionals in the push for net zero carbon. As innovators with a solid technical understanding, engineers are at the frontline in the effort to reduce carbon footprint in the built environment, and this needs to be progressively acknowledged. 

“We have to show our understanding, our flexibility and willingness to be pioneers, as we have been in the past, to achieve this transition.” said Susan. 

In support of this year’s campaign by International Women’s day, we asked Susan what she would be committing to, to drive some positive change. “The statistics show that in the next number of years there will be 720 million people in extreme poverty due to climate change if we do not act.” explained Susan, as she spoke about the need for both individuals and organisations to challenge themselves to make all the needed changes to lower their impact on the environment.  

In this regard, chapmanbdsp will commit to science based targets as well as aligning to the 17 UN Sustainability Goals, ensuring that as a business they can keep developing successful designs while reducing the impact on the environment.  

Meet Denitza Moreau, Design Management Academy Lead at Skanska UK

In this episode we spoke to Denitza Moreau, Design Management Academy Lead at Skanska UK and Chair of ADM, a brand new association for design management across the country.

The goal of the Association for Design Management is to help define a clear career path into this discipline, which is becoming increasingly prominent across the industry but is still lacking a clear definition and accreditation system.

Denitza started her career as an architect back in 1994. Eighteen years into her career she felt it was time for a new challenge and Design Management offered a whole new angle on the design process. “I have become really interested in how Design Management is done, its principles and how we can support people in that role.” she explains. Watch the full interview below.

To support the campaign launched by International Women’s Day, Denitza chose to “challenge challenging” in favour of “celebrating” and recognising successes before focussing on barriers. “We’ve spent years challenging what’s not working, and I feel it’s also really important to encourage what is”.

Collaboration is the driver to some much needed positive change across the industry, according to Denitza. Most roles in the construction sector are getting more and more specialised, posing the risk of disjointed and siloed working.

“Co-striving” is the key driver to collaboration, which can only be achieved through a collective effort towards a common goal and understanding how each individual team member can contribute to achieve it.

Meet Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive at Constructing Excellence in the North East

In this episode, Liz spoke to Catriona Lingwood, who heads up Constructing Excellence North East. A real driving force for the Constructing Excellence movement, Cat has been in the industry for over 18 years. ‘I fell into the construction industry completely by accident’ she told Liz, while she explained the journey that eventually led her to what is still her dream job. Watch the video below to find out more.

Cat spoke to us about a very inspiring project that started 2 years ago, which aimed to tackle the disconnection that permeates the sector to create a more unified and cohesive industry in the North East region. Constructing Excellence worked in tight collaboration with different organisations and professional bodies across the region, which resulted in the creation of One Voice, the North East England Construction Strategy 2020-2025.

As a keen innovator and change-maker, we asked Cat what she felt is needed to achieve positive and lasting change in the industry. “The last year has seen a lot of change in the way we work, like the zoom we’re doing now” said Cat, as she explained how the pandemic has put the spotlight on communication and acted as an accelerator for new ways of working and connecting.

The need to adopt flexible working so quickly came with an opportunity for the industry to put aside its fears on drops in productivity and appreciate the strengths and efficiency of an agile working team which, for Cat, is definitely something that should be retained. “I’d like to see better communication within the industry” – which doesn’t necessarily translate into everyone being in the same room.

In keeping with this year’s theme #ChooseToChallenge, Cat set herself the task of challenging  culture and behaviour in the construction sector, to achieve more equality and most importantly inclusion. “Everyone has different needs and we need to make sure we are doing something for everyone.”

Meet Jade Lewis, Chief Executive at Sustainable Energy Association

In the second interview of our #ChooseToChallenge series we spoke to Jade LewisChief Executive at Sustainable Energy Association. The key role of SEA is to help deliver innovative policy solutions to help achieve a low carbon, secure energy future for the built environment; driving real transformation across the sector, providing a strong input into the Zero Carbon agenda. Watch the full video to find out more.

With her 20-year experience working with the Government and across the industry on some of the biggest challenges in the sustainable energy field, Jade spoke to us about advocacy and the importance of building trusted relationships across the industry.

We asked Jade what she feels needs to be challenged to change the construction industry for the better. As well as highlighting the need for long term government policy, Jade thinks the key element to improve the sector is ensuring health and wellbeing is put at its core.

“What I would really love to see is health and wellbeing put at the centre of all the decisions. I think this will help with buildings, with the regulations” says Jade “it will help deliver what we need but also improve the construction sector as a whole.”

Although challenging the industry and the status quo is an integral part of her job, Jade set herself a personal challenge for the year ahead. In line with International Women’s day 2021 campaign, Jade highlighted the need to encourage more women to join the construction industry – and committed to personally supporting this cause.

Meet Helen Greig, Managing Director at WISH

For the first video of our series we turned the spotlight onto Helen Greig, Managing Director at WISH. First set up in 1998, WISH is a networking organisation for women across the housing sector. With 9 regional networks across the UK, Wish helps women across the sector to identify their networks and to use them effectively. Watch the video to find out more.

According to Helen, an element that can really catalyse change across the industry is the recognition that innovation is the key to success, and ultimately critical for the very survival of the industry. “We need to keep changing, innovating and diversifying in terms of our work because the world doesn’t stand still” said Helen. “If everybody recognised that doing something different would result in change and progress, then actually they would start seeing people as opposed to genders, ethnicities, sexualities or disabilities.”

As a strong communicator, Helen also explained to us where the real benefits of actively networking come from. Getting new business is a plus, but the real value of having a strong network lies in the ability to make you feel empowered.

For the #ChoosetoChallenge campaign, Helen chose to highlight the need to address the lack of flexible working policies, even after the pandemic. “If we let people work in the capacity and in the way that works best for them, they will perform at their best.”

Our next video of our #ChooseToChallenge series is coming out soon, stay tuned to find out who Liz will be speaking to next. Sign up to our email alert to make sure you don’t miss it.


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