With International Women’s Day taking place today (8th March), we spoke to 25-year-old Annabel Le Lohe about her experience as a young, female senior planner for housebuilder Storey Homes, and discussed how the industry is and will continue to harness female talent in the years ahead.
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Annabel explained how her education has aided her in her chosen occupation.
“I’ve always shown a keen interest in how villages, towns and cities expand and meet people’s needs.
“From 2013-2016, I studied Human Geography at Sheffield Hallam University, before going on to do a Masters specifically in planning. With Geography, you learn how populations interact with their surroundings; how a location caters for the daily needs of its inhabitants; as well as the ways in which we can protect and enhance the environment. Applying these concepts to something like planning seemed like a very natural transition for me.
“My job could best be described as balancing the needs for homes, infrastructure and green space.”
She continues: “After completing my Masters, I worked in planning for a consultancy, and then joined Storey Homes in January 2020.
“I chose to enter the housebuilding sector last year to learn more about the different aspects of construction, as well as gauge how companies make a product deliverable.”
Speaking on how the industry is changing towards women, Annabel comments:
“I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had many hurdles to overcome as a woman in this industry. I have, however, had to deal with preconceptions.
“Being the only young female in a room filled with men has given way to some stereotyping, and it has often come as a surprise to the attendees that I am there to offer expert advice, rather than as someone’s assistant.
“Since joining the industry, I have seen significant change in this regard, and dealing with these assumptions is no longer a frequent problem I experience. While I appreciate that the property and construction industries are still somewhat male dominated, it is definitely working hard to achieve more of a balance.
“There are some really strong female-led communities within the field itself, such as the Women in Construction group — a not-for-profit organisation that promotes gender equality in construction — as well as the Women in Planning network, which I’ve been part of on a regional and national level.
“The key aim for Women in Planning is to mentor and empower women, as well as cover various topics — such as female-led architectural projects, and how they differ from intrinsically ‘male’ designs.
“We hope that this will help map women’s career pathways, as well as provide them with inspirational female leaders to look up to. We’re encouraging men to involve themselves in these groups, and many have taken that important step. One goal is to expand and target schools and colleges to encourage young girls to consider construction, property and planning as a career.”
Annabel discussed how and why young women should consider construction and property as a career. “I certainly think there is a place for women in construction. Being a female in this industry comes with some significant advantages. I think women offer an alternative or, perhaps, additional perspective on building projects and placemaking, which I think is essential when creating homes that cater for the needs of today.
“In any industry, there is room for men and women to work alongside each other and try to understand the other’s needs. Each can bring something different, but equally important to the table, and construction is no exception.
“My advice to young women who are interested in the industry would be that there are so many different areas that contribute towards a project from conception to delivery — including site management, planning, technical, and community engagement — and that there is a tangible sense of accomplishment when you look at something and realise you were integral to its creation.”