Women in construction: Aoife Gilheany

by | Feb 24, 2022

Equal Measures: An insight into a career in construction from a woman’s point of view

Aoife Gilheany is Head of Health and Safety at Sonica. She has worked in construction for six years

First job in the industry?

I began as a Graduate Health and Safety Officer with PJ Hegarty and Sons.

How did you reach your current level of success?

The cliché of hard work and determination definitely applies to where I’ve gotten to with my career, but I have also had the support of a lot of great people throughout my life, from my family and friends to teachers and mentors. I think having a good support system has helped me to grow and develop throughout my career. Constantly wanting to be and do better, not just for me, but the people around me has helped to elevate my career.

Why do you do what you do professionally?

I think a genuine interest in the area certainly pushed me to explore the idea of safety in working environments. My college dissertation studied the occupational health and safety of farmers, and it was from here that I truly became interested in the safety of working environments. I also like that the construction industry is a very fast-paced and sociable work environment. I love how my days are never the same.

Best advice you’ve received to date?

It’s not necessarily a piece of advice but more words of encouragement from my first manager (in the private industry) who encouraged me to break into the construction industry, and I haven’t looked back since!

Your advice to women considering a career in the construction industry?

I would recommend reaching out to those in the industry and talking to other women who work in the area. Having a mentor who you can discuss issues and ideas with, can really help you to feel more confident about your role in the industry.

Most surprising thing you’ve heard?

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of prejudices against women working in construction and I have experienced my share of them. But, I believe that by encouraging more women to join the industry and by committing to the work we can make it a more inclusive environment to
work in.

Proudest moment to date?

Starting a role as a health and safety manager at 26 years old.

How does your company support equality and diversity?

Sonica believes in equal representation and we prove this through our diverse workforce. We have a team that boasts 30 per cent female roles as well as priding ourselves on welcoming workers from 10 different countries.

What’s the biggest change you think would benefit women in the industry?

I believe better representation and tackling stigma through education and providing access to opportunities for women at every level is one way of changing the industry for the better.

Biggest myth about women working in the industry?

I think the perception that women only work in office roles is a damaging myth. For example, my role is split between working on site and working in an office. In my view, women can sometimes be not taken seriously on construction sites for this reason, and we need to work better to disprove this.

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