Is Construction a Career for Women? Insights from Victoria Chircop, Director of Project Management

8th March 2024

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Is Construction a Career for Women? Insights from Victoria Chircop, Director of Project Management

The construction industry is still male-dominated at the top, with only 16% of managerial positions held by women. However, Victoria Chircop’s career path in construction might surprise you. As Director of Project Management and Southampton Office Lead at MacConvilles, Victoria thrives in this dynamic field. Read on as she shares her journey, challenges and rewards, and insightful advice for women interested in breaking down barriers and forging their successful paths in the construction industry.

How did you get started in construction?

By pure chance! On graduating from university, I wasn’t sure of my future career path and accepted an interim administrative role within a client’s Estates team. I was immediately immersed in estate management, from small tasks to larger projects. I found the role fascinating and quickly discovered that my love of a tick list and a spreadsheet to organise myself and others could be developed into a rewarding career.

As I continued learning about project management, I realised that it wasn’t just something I was good at but something I loved. This inspired me to pursue a Master’s degree in Project Management to improve my technical skills and become even better at what I do.

Since then, I’ve enjoyed working for several different businesses, delivering a variety of projects within the Defence, Education, Local Authority, and Central Government sectors. I’ve recently joined MacConvilles to grow our new Southampton Office and strengthen our Project Management offer.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career?

Without a doubt, the most challenging period of my career has been starting my family and then returning to work whilst raising two young children together with my husband, who also works full time.

Whilst I received excellent support in the lead-up to and during my maternity leave, I found returning to work quite tricky, particularly when returning on a part-time basis. Childcare operating hours, the inevitable illnesses, and surprise school closure days are particularly challenging to overcome in a project environment where the project delivery will continue regardless. Thankfully, careful planning, open communication with client and project teams and the adoption of flexible working practices for all staff can really help.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of working in construction?

No two days are the same; one day, I could be working in an office, attending meetings and undertaking administrative tasks and the next day, I could be on-site reviewing a contractor’s progress or meeting a new client. Every project is unique, and each client has a different challenge to overcome. I enjoy the variety of my role and the ability to work with and meet different people every week. It’s also really rewarding to see a project come to fruition, walk past it and know that I was part of it.

What are your thoughts on the current state of gender diversity in the construction industry?

It’s undoubtedly improving; I am seeing more women in various professional roles, and slowly but surely women are rising to the higher levels of management which will only help to provide advocacy in board rooms. However, there is still a long way to go. With a growing industry skills shortage, it makes sense to encourage as many people into the construction world as possible. Women could be a big part of that solution, but there is not enough awareness of the types of roles on offer or how rewarding the career can be.

How can we create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for women in construction?

While positive steps are being taken, further progress is crucial. Ensuring women are well-represented at senior levels is vital, not just for diverse perspectives in leadership but also to demonstrate clear career paths for future generations.

Beyond representation, practical changes are needed. This includes revising working policies to offer robust maternity and paternity leave, shared parental leave, caregiving leave, and flexible/hybrid work arrangements. These policies can benefit all staff, potentially attracting a wider talent pool to the industry, which has traditionally been slow to adopt such measures.

What advice can you give women interested in pursuing a career in construction?

There are so many roles within our industry that might not be immediately obvious, so I encourage women to explore them first before ruling them out. Discover your strengths and play to them. Don’t be scared of a challenge. There’s something for everyone, from surveying to project management, architecture to engineering, sustainability to health and safety.

Are you eager to pursue a job in construction? Visit our website’s News and Careers section to learn more about our world, and remember to follow us on social media to get the most recent information and insights.

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