in Construction Week highlights women as an invaluable part of the construction
industry. Across this year’s awareness week which runs from 6-12 March, we will
be speaking with three female members of the Tilia Homes team to raise
awareness of the growing role of women in the industry and to share why they
think construction presents a golden opportunity as a career choice.
hear from Diana Collier, commercial manager for Tilia Homes Northern.
you get into the construction industry?
my career in construction at the age of 17 back in 1995. However, I was always
interested in building due to my father. He would buy property and carry out renovations.
From around the age of six, I would regularly be alongside him, having lots of
fun knocking down walls and filling skips. I loved helping and watching the
completing my A Levels, I was offered a trainee estimator position with
Williams Tarr Construction in Warrington. I was thrilled because I didn’t fancy
the prospect of full-time university. From there, I moved to being a trainee
quantity surveyor and ended up going to Bolton University after all to
undertake a degree in quantity surveying – but on a day release whilst earning
a salary which felt more on my terms and suited me much better.
from my father, I also owe a debt of gratitude to a lady called Barbara Fearon
who was an estimator at Williams Tarr Construction. It was she who offered me a
job right back at the start of my career, in spite of my shyness and lack of confidence
at that time. She pushed me in the right direction and, thanks to her, today I
am a successful commercial manager for a top housebuilder.
about your typical day
commercial department runs nine sites across Tilia’s Northern region. My focus
is on controlling the cost of a site by managing subcontractors’ accounts and liaising
closely with our finance team regarding total contract costs. I spend a typical
day managing a team of surveyors and guiding them on any issues or problems on
site. Each day brings new challenges which is exciting. I love my job as I’m
not stuck behind a desk – I’m regularly out on site – and I get the opportunity
to adapt to work with a whole host of people across the hierarchy of the
company, from bricklayers and roofers through to company directors.
about your favourite project you have worked on
favourite project I worked on was a scheme in Lower Broughton in Salford. I
worked on this project for a total of 10 years and we regenerated the whole
area, making it a nicer place to live. It was a very successful scheme and I
could clearly see the massive change and improvement we brought to the area.
stereotypes do you perceive for women in construction?
is a lingering perspective that the construction industry is no place for a
woman. I have seen an increase in a female presence within the industry – but
young women on the whole simply aren’t considering construction as a career
path. I think that we need to be talking more about the opportunities for women
early on within schools.
have been some of the biggest obstacles?
At the beginning
of my career, the biggest obstacle was proving a female could work in a male-dominated
workplace. This was most prevalent at a time when I was physically working on
site for about a year or so. I did experience comments being made against me
and I had to have thick skin. Happily, the industry has changed dramatically since
then. I am seeing more and more women within the industry and that lingering perspective
of women in construction is in the process of shifting. Women now have more support
and are finally being accepted. It’s no longer strange for a woman to be seen
on a building site.
opportunities are there for women?
sector is currently experiencing a skills shortage, most prominently within
quantity surveying and the skilled trades. This is good news for young women
embarking on a career because it means there are so many jobs and opportunities
out there right now. In addition to on-site construction jobs, women can also
consider a range of industry-related positions such as construction managers,
safety inspectors, site manager, quantity surveyors, etc.
In terms of skills and attributes, I would say you need to be a
people person. Women are a good fit for the sector because (for the main part) they
genuinely care and they thrive to achieve in their careers. I’m not saying that
men don’t; but women feel like they need to prove themselves more within the
male-dominated arena. Women are naturally good listeners and as such I’ve
witnessed women communicating particularly well amongst the team. In my
particular field as a commercial manager, being good at communication is
essential and you need to be able to adapt to any given situation.
you support and encourage women in construction?
Within my previous role, I had a female assistant quantity
surveyor who I trained up and is now a fully qualified surveyor with an amazing
future. I currently have a trainee and another assistant quantity surveyor who
are both doing amazingly and I support them all the way. I love seeing them go from being inexperienced and lacking
confidence to now rocking up on site with self-assurance and able to run
meetings with multiple trades – and I am always there to step in when they need
I am proud to say that Tilia already has a lot of women
working within the business, from female site managers and technical managers
to quantity surveyors. It’s a great place to work as women are treated equally
and supported by the senior management team.
your advice to women wanting to get into construction?
it as you will never look back! It’s a fantastic industry to work for and there
is never a dull moment; every day brings different challenges and experiences.