Groundbreaking women: How five female project managers are rising in the construction industry

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The skills that women in construction bring to the crucial work of shaping our built environment are more vital than ever. Meet five women at Tétris who are leading the way managing build projects across Europe.

Today, women represent a small proportion of the construction workforce, but the skills they bring are more vital than ever as the industry grapples with labour shortages and the evolving demands people have of the built environment.

Construction roles are commonly filled by men, with women making up less than 15% of the industry in many countries. Yet women make up around 39% of the global general workforce and of course, roughly half of society. Those women who work in construction not only add important perspectives about what women need and want in the spaces that are built, they contribute unique skills in problem-solving, analysis and communication. As governments roll out development plans to drive economic and social recovery and meet sustainability goals, construction firms in Europe and the UK are reporting unprecedented numbers of unfilled vacancies. Building a construction industry that welcomes women - and different thinking and working styles - is critical to fulfil urgent needs for spaces that allow people from all walks of life to thrive.

At Tétris, we value the transformative capabilities of a diverse, inclusive workforce that reflects the makeup of our communities. We strive for gender equality across our projects, with a 50:50 ratio of men to women on our build team in Poland.

Changing perceptions isn’t easy, and the women working on Tétris construction projects have surmounted challenges to build a career in their industry. So let’s meet five of our female colleagues who handle build projects across Europe:

Anne Lemmonier

Project Manager, France

How did you enter a career in construction?
As an interior design graduate, we were taught that to be good designers, we need to look beyond design because it is just 5% of any project. I quickly found out that if I wanted to provide first class advisory services to my clients, I needed to understand what was happening down the line. So I made a decision to spend more time managing construction projects hands on, and found out how exhilarating it is to watch a conceptual project spring to life.

What challenges do you face as a woman in the construction industry?
People tell you that to survive, you need to act like a man, think like a man and be hard on people.. I've even been told that to be taken seriously, I must try my best not to look like a woman. That I shouldn't show any sensitivity because it is a sign of weakness, which is something we still teach men. This may be because people are afraid of change, but that is definitely not the way I work.
As women in this industry, we're led to believe we need to become what we aren't.  But I have always stood my ground and focused on setting up the right chemistry within the teams I have managed, in my own style and way – and it works!

Tell us about one of your favourite projects with Tétris.
What we’re doing for a global cloud-based software company is very interesting. The scope of the project is straightforward, but the works are done in an environment that is complicated due to very detailed specifications for everything from IT to design, furniture and crockery, difficulties when alternatives need to be approved, and the fact that departments work in silos so there is no hierarchy to prioritise any of these items. It’s a big intellectual challenge which enables me to do what I love most, which is to connect parties and people, to manage expectations and end up satisfying everyone. At the end of the day, my job is as much about people as it is about construction. It may sometimes be a rollercoaster ride, but what an interesting journey!

Ottavia Corvaro

Construction Manager, Italy

What’s the best part of your job?
Definitely problem-solving. Finding and applying solutions to solve unexpected problems on construction sites gives me daily satisfaction. I’m always paying attention to the smallest details, which makes the difference for quality work. The main challenge is to make men understand that women can also have the same skills as men, and the second challenge is to show that we as women have more strength, spirit of sacrifice and persistence in our work.

Tell us about one of your favourite projects for Tétris.
The most significant is the renovation of the Hotel Regno, where we were the only three women to manage the entire site, from start to completion. It’s an historical hotel in the heart of Rome and we did a total strip-out of the building, then built 22 unique rooms, a bar-restaurant and a beautiful terrace on the sixth floor. I love all my projects, because they are like children who are born, grow up and become real.

The team at work at Hotel Regno, Rome

What advice do you have for women considering a career like yours?
Don’t give up at the first challenge. Be strong and constant and you will be rewarded. Above all, remember that being a construction manager is not only a job, it must also be a passion. Anything that is achieved through love, strength and sacrifice adds value to each project.

Kerry Bedser

Project Manager, South Africa

How did you enter a career in construction?
I studied interior design and worked through from draughtsman to designer, but when I moved into space assessments and space planning, that appealed to the methodical, analytical part of my brain and I really enjoyed that. The difference is: design is about creativity and vision, and project management is more focused on taking that fun and inspiring idea and seeing how we can implement it practically.

What’s the best part of your job?
Taking that design concept that’s very creative and ideal, running the “Big Idea” through the technical processes, and watching it become a very real-life, functional space. I also really enjoy the entire collaborative process between our internal teams, our clients and the suppliers - I’m a big relationship builder. My design background definitely helps me understand the big picture, and it also helps solve problems on sites because I can gauge what the designer was aiming for.

Tell us about one of your favourite projects with Tétris.
The Women’s Development Bank Trust uplifts local female businesses, and this was an amazing client to work with. Implementing and running their project, we had an all-female Tétris team: the design team, construction manager and project manager were all women, and we sourced local furniture, artwork and wallpaper designs from female-owned businesses. It was loads of fun and something different, with this thread of empowerment running through from the concept to execution, which was lovely to experience - and the space is just beautiful.

Beata Andryk

Senior Project Manager, Poland

What challenges do you face as a woman in the construction industry?
In the long run, it doesn’t matter if you are a man or woman, but to make that happen, you have to prove yourself to a lot of people, starting from your employers, through to your clients, sub-contractors and especially employees whose respect you must earn. It is then tested time and time again by new people you work with or for.  If you work hard, your reputation precedes you and after some time people recognise your worth. A big part of my job satisfaction comes from the fact that from day one I became a part of an amazing team and 17 years later I haven’t stopped liking them nor this work.

What do you think women bring to the construction sector?
Among other things – beauty and imagination. What is distinctive to our problem-solving and management is a more linear and orderly manner of setting priorities, but then again, maybe it’s just me. The strength women have is not weaker than the strength men have, on the contrary, we should remember our strengths and sensitivity, understanding and intuition, which in many situations will be very useful.

What advice do you have for women considering a career like yours?
Keep your head high and smile. Stand your ground, but first make sure you have the ground to stand on. When managing on site, it is important to keep a cool head and be assertive. This is not a profession for everyone and not everyone will feel comfortable in this role.

Siham Lahlali

Project Manager, The Netherlands

What’s the best part of your job?
The different levels of communication and its dynamics. We communicate with a lot of different stakeholders and types of clients. But also internally with architects, designers and project managers, and other colleagues with different backgrounds. I love the variety within my role – sometimes you’re chairing a meeting, managing a budget and working towards deadlines. And in each project you have a different kind of problem-solving. Not a single project is the same.

What do women bring to the construction sector?
I think the soft skills women bring to the workplace are very beneficial. How men communicate is sometimes different to how women communicate. I don’t see it as a challenge but as a value you bring.

Women have a different approach for problem solving, and strong organisational skills. And also, women tend to always think a couple of steps ahead, contribute through their analytical skills and often have a good eye for detail. But in the end, I think diversity in general is what’s important and that the main focus in a business should be achieving a good balance.

What advice do you have for women considering a career like yours?
Be authentic and don’t let anyone make you feel insecure and always stand up for your values. Do not limit yourself to the expectations of others. Don’t be afraid to show them you know what you’re talking about. If you know what you bring to the table, you will always win respect without demanding it.

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