International Women’s Day: Stewart Milne Group laying the foundations for women to make it in construction
With latest statistics revealing that women make up around 14% of professionals in the construction industry, Scottish housebuilder Stewart Milne Group is proud to report an above average figure of 18%.
With common misconceptions about the male-dominated industry gradually diminishing, the independent home builder and timber systems manufacturer has been striving to attract more women and promote construction as a viable career option.
This has included a concentrated effort to reduce the gender pay gap. The Group’s recent report on this highlighted a 4.8% improvement, from 18.1% to 13.3% - more than 10% lower than the construction sector average of 23.6%.
The Scottish firm is passionate about empowering its employees to reach their full potential and has introduced several training and development programmes across the business to attract more people to a career within construction, regardless of their gender.
Senior sales manager in Scotland at Stewart Milne Homes, Caroline Yan Hip, is an exemplar of someone who has been encouraged and nurtured by colleagues and managers.
Having joined the business a decade ago, Caroline has progressed her career from the initial role of sales consultant to becoming a part-exchange manager. Last year she stepped into her latest promotion which will see her take responsibility for the management of Stewart Milne Homes’ sites in Edinburgh and east-central belt.
Caroline explained: “I started out as a sales consultant for a small housebuilder in 2005. I had previously worked in customer services, so understood the people aspect, but had no real knowledge of the sector itself.
“Prior to commencing my construction industry career, I definitely held some misconceptions. I had considered construction sites to be a very male-dominated culture. This was rapidly disproved. Not only are construction sites respectful but a team that the sales team work closely with.”
With an ageing workforce and fewer young people including females choosing construction, the industry remains in dire need of those with the appropriate skills. And the skills needed are not just for those on sites. Soft skills such as communication, listening, negotiating and organisation are all hugely important in the world of home sales.
“Working with clients to help them make such an emotional purchase requires so much investment in the knowledge and understanding of not only your role but that of the complete buyer journey,” explains Caroline. “The number of people involved in handing over a new home to a client is incredible and is what makes the job so interesting.”
Although reports can suggest that women are more effective at employing emotional and social competencies than men, Caroline is keen to highlight her male counterparts who have been some of the best she has worked with, and from whom she’s learnt a lot.
But Caroline does point out that inspiring more women to join the industry, requires having more role models that look like ‘them’. Someone who has inspired Caroline along her career path has been her daughter, Nicola, who is currently studying at university.
“I now understand the importance of being a strong role model for her and her belief in me has given me the confidence to pursue a career and embrace new challenges. Whether that’s grasping opportunities for promotion or taking part in training courses that can grow and develop my skills.
“Stewart Milne Group has been brilliant working with its existing staff to help plan their career development. Knowing that you are supported and encouraged by the team every day is what has helped propel me during my ten years with the company. I’ve no doubt that it’s doing the same for all the other women who work here – whether they’re out selling homes, planning sites, working on the factory floor or building neighbourhoods. The foundations have been well laid for a strong and empowered female workforce.”