This week, 7-13 March 2021, marks Women in Construction (WIC) Week; a week dedicated to highlighting the importance of having a more diverse workforce and sharing inspiring stories. Monday was also International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality.
Sadly, there is still a long way to go before we reach full equality in the UK construction industry. According to the most recent ONS Workforce jobs data for the UK, only 25% of jobs in manufacturing, and 16% in construction, are held by women.
Here at Weber UK and Ireland, almost a third of our team are women. This is continuing to grow year on year, with three new female starters so far in 2021. Across Weber’s manufacturing plants in Flitwick, Telford and Ballyclare, 19 women hold senior positions, eight of which have been promoted to these positions within the past two years.
As part of WIC Week, we’ve spoken to women across all areas of Weber’s work to see how they came to construction in the first place and their advice for other women looking to pursue a career in this very varied, creative and dynamic industry.
Briony Brooks, Director of R&D, Quality and Purchasing
“I joined Weber in 2004 as a Development Chemist working with render and paint products at our site in Ballyclare. Six years later, I was promoted to Head of R&D and moved to the head office in Flitwick. I joined the executive team in 2012 and took responsibility for R&D, Quality and Purchasing.
“My favourite part of working in construction is developing products which improve homes (one of the biggest investments people make). Helping to make them more comfortable, attractive and sustainable is very rewarding.
“As a scientist, it’s fascinating to explore what’s actually involved in construction. Whether it’s the building science of how homes are constructed, or the chemistry of the products themselves, I still learn something new every day.
“Society is becoming more aware of the importance of sustainability and how much of our national carbon footprint comes from construction, so being part of the solution for how the UK can move towards net zero is an exciting challenge.”
Linda Twidale, Academy Trainer
"I left school early and completed an apprenticeship in tiling. Over the next 15 years I worked for various tile companies, both showroom sales and tiling work, before joining Weber in a telesales role. My background in tiling put me in a good position to speak to tilers about the adhesives they used and what they preferred.
“After six months, I became a Technical Advisor. I was in this role for 12 years before becoming an Academy Trainer at the Technical Academy in 2018, where I am responsible for training contractors in the Weber product ranges.
“I now have a teaching qualification, I can drive a forklift and an elevated work platform. This year I am taking an NVQ for External Wall Insulation and Concrete Repair. Weber continues to invest in my career and my expertise.
“For women looking to work in construction, my advice would be follow your heart and if you work hard, the rewards are worth it.”
Debbie Snoddy, Site Manager
“I originally wanted to work in the medical profession and did a degree in Biomedical Science with a diploma in Industrial Studies. When I graduated, I worked in a diagnostic laboratory doing quality control. I enjoyed the quality side of the job but after a couple of years I started searching for a new role. I applied for my first role at Weber as a Quality and Environmental Supervisor in 2001.
“Through the years, my career evolved to Quality and Environmental Manager. In 2014, I became Site Manager at the production site in Ballyclare. My role includes: providing support in the office; serving local customers; supporting quality control with testing; planning resource for production; conducting an audit; managing stocks; and attending meetings.
“My advice for anyone starting a career in a role like mine would be to be open to learning new skills by attending courses relevant to health and safety, people management and customer experience. You also need to be able to embrace change.”
Effi-Svende Dammenhain, Head of Supply Chain and Logistics
“I joined Weber in Telford as a Stock Controller in 2016 on a 12-month contract. My next permanent role was Supply Chain Coordinator where I continued working with the Weber Telford team.
“Within a couple of years, I was promoted to Supply Chain Distribution Manager, managing the warehouse and logistics teams for Weber sites in England as well as transport related business activities. This February I was promoted to Head of Supply Chain and Logistics.
“For anyone hoping to start a career in logistics, I’d say expect the unexpected. A day in logistics and supply chain is never the same as the next and is difficult to plan, but it is certainly never boring! It is a fast-paced environment and quick decision making is a must. At the same time, it is important to keep the bigger picture in mind.”
Ciara Barry, Assistant Product Marketing Manager
“I did an internship at Weber back in 2018 while I was at university. I went into my internship expecting to gravitate more towards digital and content marketing, particularly as I was studying for a degree in journalism, but it was product marketing that ended up piquing my interest.
“When an opportunity for a permanent position as an assistant product marketing manager came up in 2019, I didn’t think twice about saying yes.
“I think the key to attracting more women into the construction industry is to make more young people aware of the variety of roles that are available in the industry. Often younger people associated construction with trades like builders and tilers, not the rest of the workforce that’s operating behind the scenes.
“To a woman considering a job in the industry I would say don’t discount it because you don’t know much about construction. I knew very little coming into this job, but if you surround yourself with the right people with the right knowledge, you can learn anything. Whatever your career aspirations - there is a role in the industry for you.”