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BLOG: Paving the way for successful women in construction

08 March 2021

By Zarina Khalid, Construction Project Manager at Network Homes

Zarina Khalid

In 2020, there were just 289,000 women in the construction industry compared to a staggering 1.9 million men. It certainly goes without saying, therefore, that UK construction still remains a male-dominated sector.

Zarina Khalid, Construction Project Manager at Network Homes

After completing my degree in Psychology from Warwick University, I was eager to work for a year before going on to obtain my PHD. During this period, I secured the role as PA to the Assistant Director of Policy and Regeneration at Brent Council, which changed my career path entirely. I was given the opportunity to assist on regeneration projects run by Brent Council, which included development of community centres and employment initiatives. It was during my year working on such schemes that I decided to pursue a career in Development. I loved to see projects come to fruition and witness valid outcomes that changed lives for the better.

As I explored different avenues within the field, I began to focus on housing, which is a vital element in neighbourhood improvement and regeneration. In addition, I became a local councillor for one term, which fuelled my ambition to help improve the lives of others, before going on to obtain the role of Assistant Project Manager at Metropolitan, now known as Metropolitan Thames Valley. Having managed and delivered a number of new-build schemes at Metropolitan, I moved on to Network Homes, where I recognised a superb team ethos and a winning attitude.

I have worked as a Construction Project Manager here for almost seven years - with two years off to have my two little boys – I have delivered over 700 homes; including Phase 2 of South Kilburn’s regeneration project. This scheme had a sales income of around £75.5 million and was a great success for Network.

I enjoy the multidisciplinary aspect of construction; for example, working alongside architects, lawyers, employers Agents, clerk of works, and overseeing every aspect of the build process. I feel a real sense of achievement, from the initial stages of seeing a scheme born, pruned and then developed into a quality selection of homes.

The industry is still somewhat male-dominated however, over the years I’ve definitely seen a rise in the number of women entering the sector. Early on in my career, it was not common to see a woman in my site meetings. Quite often, I would be the only woman in the room, and many people would automatically assume I was there in an admin capacity, rather than as a Project Manager. Thankfully, this is no longer the case and generally speaking, there are other women in the room; frequently leading the meetings, in fact.

I see myself on a level playing field with men and I don’t necessarily believe a person’s success within their chosen industry boils down to their gender, but rather their willingness to learn and ability to lead.
There is definitely a place for women in construction, and it should be encouraged at a much earlier stage. I don’t even remember coming across the word ‘construction’ when looking at career options at school and college, whereas the opportunities for women are vast now. That being said, I think it’s important for schools and colleges to continue harnessing young women and encouraging them to explore traditionally ‘male’ roles. This will help pave the way for strong female leaders and create equal job opportunities for women.

My advice to young women who are considering property, construction and planning as a career is – don’t be intimidated and ask lots of questions! There are so many areas to explore within this industry and plenty of people who are willing to offer expert advice and support.

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