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Photograph of Riverbank Hub - primary school, nursery and community use.

BLOG: Inspiring inclusive careers in construction


For International Women’s Day 2024, Senior Site Manager in our Scotland team, Joanne Fuller-Wilson, has written this blog about her career, explaining her route into the construction industry, what has inspired her over the years and what she would say to young females wanting to pursue a career in construction.

Firstly, a bit about me and my route into construction

I have been employed with Morgan Sindall (previously Amec) for over 18 years and I am mum to a six-year-old boy.

I left school at the end of fifth year wanting to move on and do something that I had an interest in and had chosen for myself. That summer, I completed a week’s placement onsite at Tennent’s Caledonian Brewery who were having some construction works carried out, and that September, I attended my first day at Glasgow Caledonian University studying Construction Management.

During the course we had the opportunity for a six-month work placement and I was very lucky to spend that time with Amec Construction (now Morgan Sindall). I then returned to university to complete my degree and managed to stay employed part time with Amec during the remainder of my course.

Upon graduation, I went full time with Amec and now 18 years later, I have worked my way up from trainee, to graduate site manager, assistant site manager, site manager and now senior site manager.

Some of my favourite projects over the years

During my 18 years I have been lucky enough to work on a variety of projects from new build education projects to refurbishments works.

Some of my favourite projects have been Bishopbriggs Academy, this was a large secondary school right across from my house at the time. The team was great, and it was a really enjoyable project to be a part of..

Clydebank town hall – a refurbishment of the first-floor area to allow local elected members to be housed in the town hall. This building has so much history, seeing out both world wars and surviving the World War II Clydebank blitz even thought it was so close to the shipyards. The project presented some interesting stakeholders and we had to manage noise and vibration during the works, often downing tools for Lord Provost’s meetings, wedding ceremonies or events to take place.

Riverbank project

More recently the Riverbank project which we completed August 2023 was definitely a favourite. The team worked well on this project to overcome some challenges and complete the school on time for opening after the summer holidays.

We also had lots of fun achieving community benefit targets on this project:

- lots of interaction with the existing local schools

- planting of vegetables with the school children to allow them to achieve their food-growing strategy

- four members of the site team ran a 5k to raise over £1000 for Chris House, a local mental health charity which we all feel passionate about

We also partnered with the Tigers Group, a Glasgow based initiative training young people to find their way into work including into the construction industry and to help with the skills gap we are facing.

My preconceptions of the construction industry

Prior to joining the construction industry, I was sure I wanted to give it a go but was also worried about being accepted and valued as a member of the team being female. There were very few women in site management roles when I joined over 18 years ago, and this obviously raised concerns around achieving a lasting career in the industry. When I started however, I did feel included and have had an 18 year career in the industry.

I still feel there are challenges for women (and men) juggling family commitments such as childcare and illness and caring for older parents with demanding site hours but I have seen far more women coming into the industry in recent years, and flexible working approaches being adopted so I’m hopeful for the future.

My proudest achievement

My proudest achievement whilst working at Morgan Sindall is every handover, seeing the delighted end-users’ faces and the positive impact our projects have on them.

People who inspire me

Tough to pick but if I was to name just one woman who inspired me, it would be Jacinda Ardern the former New Zealand prime minister. Not only did Ardern become the world’s youngest head of government at 37 but then went on to have her daughter while in office. I feel this is a powerful message for inclusion and truly inspiring.

I am inspired by how, when required, she has made decisions which may differ from how others would have handled things but stood by these. To me, she promotes positive female leadership and certainly inspires others.

Feeling included in the workplace

Things that make me feel included in the workplace are quite simple, the team chat and being included in this, building relationships with colleagues and subcontractors. Another is PPE that fits the female body. This has greatly improved over the years with women’s ranges now available. We now need a solution to long hair getting snagged in the hard hat! Oh, and having a nice clean female toilet that isn’t doubling as the cleaning store is always a winner. It's great to see we have hugely improved on these.

I believe when people feel valued, they out perform the requirements of their role; it doesn’t take much to ask someone how they are and listen for a few minutes.

My message to young women thinking about a career in construction

To young women coming into the industry, I would 100% say go for it if it’s something you feel passionate about. As a site manager, no two days are the same and I absolutely love the variety of projects we cover and wide range of people I meet daily. There are a huge variety of roles within the industry, some roles many people aren’t even aware of as construction often has people just thinking of onsite trades.

I would say reach out and even try a placement to get a taste of the role you are interested in. There have been obstacles to overcome during my career in the industry, but the feeling of achievement is immense. My career with Morgan Sindall has been more than enjoyable over the last 18 years and it has provided me and my son a nice life.

What does #InspireInclusion mean to me?

Inspire inclusion for me really means inspiring others to understand and value women’s inclusion. Women have a lot to offer the construction industry with different approaches and ideas to collaborate with our colleagues and benefit us all. Inspiring and including women is for me about collaboration, improving things for all, not only women, and not just to achieve statistics.

Following my maternity leave, I returned on a 30-hour, 4 day week contract and this allowed me to spend precious time with my little one mid-week as my non-working day is a Wednesday. Due to leaving early in the morning for the hour drive to site to be there before 8am and not getting home until 6pm in the evenings, I didn’t get to see him much on the four days I worked. Having the extra day mid-week relieved some of that internal mum guilt of leaving my baby with family or nursey all day to allow me to work.