How skilled women are breaking down barriers and building careers in construction

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What was once considered a male-dominated world is now home to ambitious, skilled women breaking down barriers to break gender stereotypes and bring a fresh perspective to the ever-changing construction industry.

Working in construction isn’t just about putting on a high-visibility jacket on a job site. It is a welcoming and nurturing environment where women have enormous opportunities to succeed in a dynamic, diverse and evolving industry. Whether it’s working behind the scenes in the marketing department, operating a crane on site, coordinating BIM or quantity surveying from head office, the construction industry has never been a career choice. also varied and exciting for skilled women, like Sofia Noor and Amelle Mestari. .

Sofia Noor and Amelle Mestari both work for Bouygues in the UK, and are also members of Welink UK, an internal women’s network which aims to facilitate the integration and development of qualified women. It promotes gender equality in the sector and helps women build their confidence and career profile so that they feel comfortable expressing their ambitions more easily.

“Being a woman is not an obstacle to success in the construction sector”

Although they come from different backgrounds and follow completely different paths in the construction world, both are shining examples that being a woman is no barrier to success in the construction industry.

Sofia Noor joined Bouygues UK Graduate Scheme in 2018 and is now Site Manager. She has a real passion for construction and wants to inspire anyone, from any background, to enter the world of construction.

Sofia has always loved buildings and the idea of ​​putting them together, so it’s always been her dream to manage a project and see it grow from an idea into a real safe and lovely space.

With an inconsistent upbringing due to traveling back and forth between London and Kenya, a lack of support and a sometimes unstable life, she admits to having ‘fallen to the finish line’ of education with a degree in civil engineering from the University of Portsmouth, followed by an MA. in Structural Engineering from City University.

She says: “When I started my career, I thought I knew what I wanted to do. Initially, I was sure I wanted to design buildings. Then I was sure I wanted to build buildings. Then I was sure that I wanted to manage the construction of buildings.

“What I learned from it is that you have a choice and you can change your mind as long as at that moment you have to give it your all. There are so many avenues and opportunities to borrow within the engineering/construction industry for women so I would advise you to never limit yourself, learn from every opportunity, believe you can and whatever you do make sure you give everything. got.

Sofia admits she was very nervous when she first went there.

She says: “I was overwhelmed with impostor syndrome and I was afraid that someone would ask me something and I wouldn’t know the answer. I wondered how a small me could belong to a construction site managing men twice my age? My biggest fear was proving that people who thought I wasn’t there were right.

“But slowly I learned that no one there knows everything, knowledge comes with experience. It’s okay not to know everything and don’t be afraid to ask.

Sofia loves construction and is passionate about reaching the top of this male-dominated industry. She also likes to travel, meet people from all over the world and appreciate the architecture of this country.

What advice would Sofia give to a woman considering a career in construction?

“I really care about giving young women the boost they need to do things they think they can’t do. I would say if a woman wants it enough, then she should do it! Women are more than capable; we just have to have a strong head to face the changing stereotypes and go for it.

Amelle Mestari began her life in construction as a receptionist at Bouygues UK and today more than 20 years later, she is Purchasing & Sustainable Development Director of Bouygues E&S Solutions, the energy and services division of Bouygues Construction, after navigated a career that offered many paths to success.

qualified women

Amelle says: “I started my career with Bouygues UK a year and a half after my arrival in London, as a receptionist on a construction site at King’s College University. One of the main challenges initially was making sure I was fluent in English – to make sure I was, I watched EastEnders; with subtitles i could pretty much understand cockney accents!

“Another challenge at the time was the lack of career progression in my role as a receptionist. I felt I needed to take charge of my future so I discussed the situation with my project manager who was very understanding. Shortly after this conversation, I was promoted to Secretary of Public Works. When the project ended, a year and a half later, I was Assistant Project Manager, managing the receptionist and secretary. »

It wasn’t long before Amelle felt that her role was not beyond her. The Bouygues UK purchasing manager offered him to join his team. In addition to buying building materials and services, he was overseeing the fleet and cell phones and needed someone to help him, so she accepted the challenge.

There are multiple construction career opportunities for qualified women

With so many career opportunities in construction and with supportive employers along with her own self-confidence and ambition, Amelle was able to find a role that really suited her.

Amelle says: “The turning point in my career came during a meeting with one of our underperforming suppliers when we had to raise our concerns and ask for improvements on their performance. CFOs from our construction business and facilities management businesses attended the meeting. I was about to hand the agenda I had prepared to my purchasing manager when he told me I was chairing the meeting. You can imagine my reaction. How could I, Purchasing Assistant, do this in front of two administrators?! But I took up the challenge and did it. I was grateful for the opportunity my manager at the time gave me to step out of my comfort zone.

“When I started as a purchasing manager, most managers in my company were men and twice my age. Fortunately, I can say that now, 20 years later, we have extremely different demographics, but I feel that my character, my tenacity and my experience on construction sites have helped me assert myself and progress in this role.

“I learned to work on stakeholder management and developed relationships with our operational managers. They would support me with their engineering knowledge, and I would in turn bring my soft skills (communication, relationship building, negotiation and problem solving). It hasn’t always been easy. I had to believe in myself to take ownership of the situation.

Many women worry about the impact of having a baby on their careers, often at a time when they continue to climb the career ladder. But Amelle’s experience is positive and during her maternity leave she used what are called KIT (Keep In Touch) days to check in.

She adds, “My husband was (and still is) incredibly supportive. I had a boss at the time who was understanding and allowed me to work flexibly (leave early or work from home when needed). Before COVID-19, Bouygues Construction had already implemented a flexible working policy. I believe it’s entirely possible to have a career and be a caring mother, as long as your company understands your priorities and allows you flexibility.

Be one of the ambitious and skilled women in construction, today

Amelle has some key advice for budding women (and men) looking to pursue a career in construction.

  • If you suffer from impostor syndrome, the first step is to recognize it and take positive steps to overcome it. These can include tracking and measuring your success, letting go of your inner perfectionist, and finding a mentor and/or coach.
  • Make the right choice when hiring people. You are only as good as the people working on your team. A diverse workforce will always perform better.
  • Do not accept that someone underestimates your professional achievements, it can have a major effect on your future progress. Be prepared during your assessment and know what you want your next steps to be. Talk to your manager throughout the year, not just during your annual review.

Inspire other qualified women

She added, “Throughout my career, I have had inspiring managers and leaders who listened, who took the time to share their knowledge and take me out of my comfort zone. They have witnessed the results of their support for me. I hope to inspire others to give the same support to other women, because the results can be amazing.

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