My Career in Construction – Terry John

My career in construction had something of an unorthodox beginning. After the loss of my mother at an early age my father became my role model. He was employed as a foreman for a construction firm, and so the story begins. With a male-dominated upbringing, he might also be responsible for my love of motorbikes and adrenaline-packed activities.

In my early days, I spent a term in the Royal Air Force, leaving to marry and have my family. On the day the last of my children started school my future career came under scrutiny, and,  not wanting to enter the more acceptable careers for women at that time, I chose to work in construction. The path involved two years at Technical College to gain the requisite qualifications to enter University.

University was the first step and despite being the only female I became accepted and made many friends with whom I remain in touch with now. University days weren’t always easy with three young children and indeed on several occasions they attended lectures with me; a trip that was surprisingly accepted and enjoyed by lecturers and students alike.

I was one of the first women to graduate in Quantity Surveying in the late 80s with several building awards under my belt. Evidently, in those days it was a requirement to out-perform and I am proud to have done that.

During these early years, sites were a little different to what we see today, and indeed what is acceptable. Site cabins were dirty and heated with Calor gas heaters which made the windows run with condensation. Buckets were always available to catch the rain permeating the roof and feet were kept in cardboard boxes under the desk to keep warm. In addition, female Quantity Surveyors were extremely rare and unexpected and I relished the opportunity to change the viewpoints of many in the construction industry.

Nowadays of course females are not only readily accepted but encouraged on-site and all amenities are available.

Over the years the opportunity has arisen to become involved in seminars and presentations around the promotion of females in construction together with “women and the glass ceiling” which has been hugely rewarding. This, together with mentoring of undergraduate students and newly graduated employees has been such a pleasure.

Whilst the rate of women employed generally has risen from 10% some 20 years ago to almost 50% today the percentage of females within the construction industry is currently only 13%.

It is interesting, therefore, to note that over 40% of VOLOCO partners are female.

The industry has already made great progress towards awareness and inclusion of female colleagues within the industry, which now includes amazing women like Roni Savage (advisor to Lord Sugar on The Apprentice) and I consider myself privileged to know some outstanding women in the industry ranging from Surveyors, Project managers, Bid Managers, Designers and Directors,

Now, with 34 years in the industry, I would not have changed a thing.  I still love this ever-evolving career and would recommend it to all women with an interest and passion for construction.

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