The construction industry needs to improve the diversity of its workforce and, as an employer of choice, Acivico is keen to recruit, retain and champion female employees.  We interviewed Senior Quantity Surveyor, Annette Brandsma, about the ‘Women in Construction Summit’ which she and other female employees recently attended.

What is the ‘Women in Construction Summit’ and why were you attending?

“The Women in Construction Summit is an annual event which brings women together from across the world. It enables women to share their experiences and debate solutions to the common challenges they face working in a predominantly male dominated profession.  Acivico extended invitations to me and other female employees to attend the event.”

What was the format of the event?

“The summit was held online over three days. Usually, it’s held as a physical event but this year’s summit went online because of the global pandemic.  I was concerned that participants would not have the opportunity to meet and network with each other but the online format worked very well.  It also meant I could catch up with any sessions I missed. This proved invaluable as the summit coincided with a very busy time for me at work.  If it had been held purely as a physical event, I might well have missed some parts of it.”

What did you like about the summit?

“It was well organised and thought out. The topics were very relevant and included inequality, creating promotion opportunities, dealing with bullying and the need for more flexible working arrangements – something which I think is important if we are to encourage more women to enter the industry.

“The summit’s speakers were also inspiring.  Many of the women who spoke at the event are leading industry figures.  They shared their experiences, explained how they had overcome key issues and were great role models for the summit’s attendees. Hearing about their experiences was both helpful and inspiring.”

If you had to name one seminar which really stood out for you, what would that be?

“A seminar entitled ‘Flexibility & Making It Work’. In the context of the current Covid-19 pandemic it was topical for both men and women.  We heard from male and female speakers who explored how relationships, performance, the working environment and wellbeing were affected by working from home.”

Tell us a bit more about that seminar?

“The seminar covered four areas: Relationships, the need for human interaction and the negative impact which working remotely can have on both colleagues and clients; the challenges faced when our working environment and the boundaries between work life and home life become less defined; the need for greater trust as evidence of performance can become harder to assess, and the need to look after our own and other people’s wellbeing.”

Why are events such as Women in Construction Summit so important?

“For me, this summit underlined that women have a key role to play in the future of our industry. Women don’t want to be treated differently, they just want to be given the same opportunities to flourish and if we can achieve this, the industry and society as a whole will benefit. Events like the Women in Construction Summit help us achieve this goal.”

What’s next for you?

“I am always keen to learn new skills and I’d like to obtain a new construction related qualification, develop my project management skills, and expand my role at Acivico.   I’m lucky to work for an employer which offers more flexible working patterns than many, prioritises employee wellbeing, finances training for professional qualifications and proactively supports women.  My career in the construction industry has been incredibly rewarding and I’m looking forward to the future.”

Annette Brandsma is a Senior Quantity Surveyor at Acivico. She is involved with everything from the refurbishment of historic buildings to the construction of landmark developments which are changing the face of our urban environments.  She plays an active role in projects delivered by Acivico and ‘Constructing West Midlands’, a public sector procurement framework managed by Acivico Ltd.