Women in Construction: Professional Networking

Sarah Thatcher
Women in property and construction increasingly recognise the importance of networking.

I work with our managing director and HR business partner to implement the Faithful+Gould gender balance improvement plan - aiming to create a balanced workforce and equal opportunities. The plan focuses on candidate attraction, recruitment, development, retention and senior promotions.

As part of this, I’m keen to explore ways of encouraging my female colleagues to benefit from networking. Many of us are already active in organisations such as Women in Property and the APM’s Women in Project Management SIG. One of the great things about working for a large organisation like Faithful+Gould is the opportunity for in-house networking, across our business units and regions.

Our internal networking events

In our London office, where I’m based, we decided to offer a programme of events that aimed to demonstrate and share positive career paths for women in the industry. We trialled a variety of session times as we knew that the networking opportunities needed to fit around work and home life commitments.

We began by organising inspiring internal and external speakers, who talked about their own career history and shared their experience. We also invited speakers from organisations such as WISE, which helps inspire women and girls to pursue STEM subjects as pathways to fulfilling careers.

In 2013 we wanted to do even better so we carried out an internal survey of our employees, asking them what they’d like to see on the event programme. Two things stood out:

  • Most networking events could include men, for the widest benefits
  • Business-specific content was especially valued at events

If we want to lobby for support and opportunities for women's career progression and exciting project involvement, we need to create opportunities to mix with a wider pool of colleagues - it's not always what you know, but who you know. Finding a comfortable arena for this business-wide networking benefits everyone.

Events needed to have business specific content

It's great to listen to people's individual stories of career success, but our survey revealed that people really want to hear about tools and techniques that we can apply instantly to our own circumstances – such as lessons on language use, presentation skills, and showcasing our successes.

Our new events

As a result, we have developed a new matrix of events. We continue to offer gender specific sessions where we believe they would be of benefit. But we've now added 'lunch & learn' forums, to share best practice delivery of specific sector work across our internal business units. As a presenter you get to know colleagues that you can build business development opportunities with, and as an attendee you learn who to contact for the best information. Lunching with like-minded individuals strengthens relationships and facilities knowledge sharing. Our next season of events will consider adding evening sessions too.

We’re getting good feedback from the events programme. Colleagues value the networking opportunities from a career development viewpoint, and it helps us deliver better as a business – putting lessons learnt and knowledge sharing to good use.