In celebration on International Women’s Day, we speak to Clare Grace and Victoria Head who are working on The Grange University Hospital in Cwmbran Wales. While the project itself is largest healthcare project in Wales, what makes it unusual is its predominantly female senior leadership team.

Could you give us some background on the SCCC/The Grange project you both worked on recently, which was notable for having a largely female senior leadership team?

Clare: The Grange University Hospital, formerly known as the Specialist & Critical Care Centre, is a £356million new build acute care hospital in Cwmbran, Wales, comprising 55,000m2 of accommodation, including more than 450 beds, 11 operating theatres, radiology diagnostic facilities, an emergency department, critical care, maternity and neonatal intensive care and multi-disciplinary educational facilities.

Victoria: Gleeds has had a long working relationship with the client, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board. Myself and Clare have forged strong ties with the Capital Planning Team and wider Health Board, which has a predominately female leadership team, from the project clinical and technical leads to the Director of Planning through and the Chief Executive of the Health Board.

Some people still view the construction industry to be male-dominated – what is your view?

Victoria: It’s a fairly unavoidable fact that the construction industry does employ more men than women. Things are changing and gradually improving in terms of the levels of diversity, albeit slowly. There are more women entering into the industry, especially straight out of university, and over time these women will rise through the ranks into more senior roles and start to break down the perceptions of it being a male-dominated industry. The key will be to empower women to rise into these roles and to have a more prominent role in the industry. 

Supporting women in a career in construction is key, hence why we are keen to provide as much insight and information on the industry as possible. This  include promoting career opportunities at local schools, working with universities to give undergraduate work experience placements, providing apprenticeships and a mentoring scheme for those already in the industry.

Can you describe your respective journeys within the construction industry?

Clare: I decided to study for my BSc in Construction Management and Surveying at the University of Reading after doing some industry-based work experience at the RICS and HCG Group. I then did a series of summer placements at the construction consultancy Davis Langdon’s Cardiff office throughout my degree, before being taken on as an assistant project manager after graduating. After completing my first healthcare project I then left to do my PhD in construction management once again at Reading, which I completed in 2013. I then joined Gleeds in early 2014, at the same time as Victoria.

Victoria: I joined Gleeds in 2014 as an associate director and am currently the health sector lead for the South West. My undergraduate degree was in sociology, but I choose to change pathways shortly after graduating and started working for Bristol NHS Primary Care Trust in their estates team. I then moved to Capita where I worked on a range of health projects and in 2011, I gained my MSc in Construction Project Management at the University of Reading.  I have worked on both the client and the consultancy side of the industry, which proves invaluable when navigating the complexity of the construction sector.  

What would your advice be to women looking to enter the industry today?

Clare: My advice would be to explore the range of different roles available and gain some work experience before committing to any one pathway. Construction can be a bit of a roller-coaster and high pressured at times, so you need to find something you love to do and be proactive at doing it.

Victoria: The 2007 recession seems to have left a gap in the market for those at the earlier stages still developing in their careers, but not quite at the senior level, so there are lots of opportunities available for those looking to enter into the industry either from university or as a career change. Clare and I demonstrate that there is more than one route into construction.

Clare: Don’t be put off by what appears to be a male dominated industry. On a day-to-day basis it’s not something that impacts on our ability to do our jobs, or to do them well. There are definitely still boundaries to be broken down, but this will only improve with more women entering into the industry.  

Clare Grace & Victoria Head

Clare Grace & Victoria Head
Associate Director and Project Manager, Wales