A spotlight on women in construction: Leanne Webster
Official statistics from GMB calculate that just one in eight construction workers are women. That’s why, as part of National Inclusion Week, we’ve interviewed Leanne Webster about her role as a quantity surveyor at Cleveland Bridge Group. We spoke about her background and career in construction, as well as her thoughts on the industry’s gender gap.
Read her answers, below, to find out more about Leanne’s professional success story.
How did you start your career in construction?
I took my first steps towards a career in construction back at college when I studied maths and design technology, alongside English language and sociology.
After completing my exams, I joined the army as a vehicle mechanic, travelling all over the world to repair, maintain and inspect various vehicle platforms. Then in 2014, while still serving in the forces, I started a distance learning degree in quantity surveying as I wanted to enhance my CV for post-army life.
After almost 10 years in the army, I returned to the North East and was subsequently assigned a mentor through the British Legion. Upon their recommendation, I applied for a role as a trainee quantity surveyor at Cleveland Bridge Group and was lucky enough to get the job – I haven’t looked back since.
What is your proudest moment so far at Cleveland Bridge Group?
It’s not so much a single moment, but I’m very proud of my career progression at the company.
I started as a trainee quantity surveyor in 2017, learning how to calculate and manage costs across a range of different projects. At the same time, I was also doing the final year of my quantity surveyor degree by distance learning.
When I completed my training, I was promoted to assistant quantity surveyor. Little over a year later, after passing my degree Cleveland Bridge Group yet again recognised my ability and dedication, promoting me to my current role as a fully-fledged quantity surveyor.
I am very proud of my swift rise through the ranks and hope it can continue as I target a chartered professional accreditation.
Is there anything more schools and companies can do to encourage more women to enter construction?
I can only speak from personal experience, but there were very few girls in my design technology class at college. It’s my belief that schools and colleges can help to raise awareness of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) roles by promoting these courses earlier in the curriculum.
It’s vital that education institutions also connect with local businesses to highlight the array of opportunities available. If young women can connect with those companies and see first-hand the industry roles available to them, it will help drive interest.
At Cleveland Bridge Group, for example, we have STEM ambassadors who play that important role in connecting construction to education. If other companies can replicate this model, more women would feel more comfortable entering the industry.
What advice would you offer to other women wanting to break into the construction industry?
My advice is simple: if that’s what you want to do, go for it.
Treat construction as you would any other industry – all that matters is that you have the skills to fill a specific role. After all, I believe it’s no longer unusual for women to be underrepresented at the forefront of construction.