Equal Measures – An insight into a career in construction from a woman’s point of view
Anne Kinsella An engineering manager with Clonmel Enterprises Ltd who has worked in the industry for 19 years
My first job was as a graduate resident engineer with Kildare County Council on the N7 Naas Road Widening, prior to that I had worked as an engineer in Laois County Council. It was a whole new experience for me, working on a large-scale civil engineering site and every day was something new and a challenge and I absolutely loved it.
I loved being outside, working with lots of different people as part of a team to get a project to completion and I learned so much. Hard work has played a part in where I am today and a willingness to take on new challenges. I’ve a keen interest in what I do and my area of work, which has led me to further education and my own research.
When the opportunity in Clonmel Enterprises Ltd came up, I decided to make a change and work as a contractor and I haven’t regretted that decision – although I do miss being out on sites these days. I love seeing projects progress and knowing the detail of them. I find my job interesting and it changes all the time. Different projects bring different challenges.
There’s always something new and something to learn about. I was told engineering would be a good fit for me by a school guidance counsellor and he was absolutely right. As a woman you won’t regret a career in construction. I think it’s a shame so many women believe the stereotypes that different industries are for men or women.
What change would benefit women in the industry?
Taking meaningful steps to making the industry more family friendly. Companies offering paid maternity leave and some flexible working, where possible in the role would benefit the industry as a whole, not just for women. I believe flexibility is needed around taking leave for both men and women to allow time to attend school meetings or when children are sick. This is an industry whose success depends on its workforce – people who are content in life are able to work more efficiently and effectively. Studies in other countries have shown that the additional cost of allowing this type of flexible leave is often negated with an increase in productivity.
A job is a job and if you enjoy it, it’s for you. Construction requires excellent organisational skills, an ability to multitask and problem solve, all things women excel at, so go for it.
I was amazed, naively, when I graduated that so many people thought construction was just for men and were surprised that I was working in the industry. I came from a school in Carlow that was very progressive and in fact, four from my Leaving Cert class went into engineering in UCD. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do something just because of my gender.
Women don’t see sexism everywhere but it does exist, like in every walk of life. Construction sites are predominantly the realm of men and sexism still occurs – I still hear sexist comments every now and then. There have been times, more so at the start of my career, where I had to stand up for myself to ensure I got the deserved, same level of respect as my male colleagues.
Some people believe those days are gone and that sexism has disappeared from the industry, it hasn’t, but it has become far more unacceptable and those sticking to the old ideals are making themselves irrelevant.
One of my proudest moments would have to be when I got my Fellowship with Engineers Ireland, I was so thrilled and very proud to have my achievements recognised. My company Clonmel Enterprises Ltd ensures people feel heard and address issues if any arise.
They have recently undertaken inclusion leadership training and obtained their Bronze Diversity status, something I contributed to. We are working to make our policies more inclusive and use more inclusive language in our communications.