Friday 3rd April 2020

Building a bridge for women into the construction industry

Barbara Akinkunmi is graduate from Lovell’s London office and is looking to build bridges to attract more women into the industry.

Building a bridge for women into the construction industry

By Barbara Akinkunmi, a graduate with Lovell London


Across the construction industry in the UK, estimates suggest women represent only 10-14 per cent of the workforce. With the sector set to create almost two million jobs by 2021, a graduate from Lovell’s London office is looking to build bridges to attract more women into the industry.

Barbara Akinkunmi 23, is seen by those who work with her at Lovell Partnerships not only as a talented and reliable technical designer but also as a strong advocate for the construction industry. Not only has she attended a number of career fairs and visited secondary schools to spread the word, she has also recently been invited by the HBF (Home Builders Federation) to talk to MPs about careers in the construction industry for women at a special event at the Houses of Parliament.

Barbara entered Lovell’s well-established graduate programme having studied architecture at university but wanted real “on the job” experience rather than a desk job.

Barbara explains:

“I love architecture but the idea of just doing CAD drawings every day wasn’t for me. I wanted to know about the whole building process – from beginning to end.

A friend of mine had entered the Lovell graduate programme and was so complimentary about the work experience. I knew it was exactly what I was looking for, so I applied and was successful. I started shadowing a technical manager and was exposed to all different Lovell sites at different stages.

I’m deeply interested in house building and social housing and I wanted to understand the entire process. Lovell’s residential and regeneration developments sparked my interest in the company. I was also attracted to its delivery of high spec mixed tenure development schemes, which integrates affordable housing and private housing. I knew the company would expose me to all stages of a construction project.

Justine, the programme director at Lovell London, has been a source of inspiration and a role model for me by her work ethic, teamwork, and approachability.”


Explain your role?

I’m currently a Technical Design Graduate within the commercial department on Lovell’s graduate scheme. So far I’ve been able to experience and learn about key stages within the construction process such as tendering, programming, planning, design, site management and project management. Being exposed to these areas has broadened my understanding significantly and I’m still learning!


What’s your career path/ journey so far

During sixth form I studied Fine Art, Mathematics and Design Technology. I naturally love drawing and I loved my Design Technology course, as I designed a residential building using CAD software and built a physical model of it.

When deciding on a University course, I literally looked into what I could do that combined fine art and design technology, which is how I came across Architecture. I only completed part 1 of my Architecture degree because I wanted to experience and understand the process before and after design, which is why I applied for Lovell’s graduate scheme. I’m pleased to say the scheme is giving me exactly this!


How do your colleagues see you?

I hope it’s someone who has a strong work ethic, an asset to the team, proactive and able to take ownership of what was entrusted of me.


You’re seen as a Lovell ambassador as well as an ambassador for women working in construction - What’s next?

To see women rise into various positions (including senior positions) within the industry and also to help inspire the future generation of leaders who are currently in school or college. There’s a lack of young representatives for them and a lack of representation of women in general within senior and board level roles. There’s still a strong misconception of the industry – young women think it’s all ‘Bob the Builder’, mud, hi viz, and uncomfortable hard hats!

I explain you don’t have to work outdoors – there’s many roles that will give young women a lot of job satisfaction from sales, administration, HR, bidding, marketing as well as design and development.


Why are you so passionate about what you do?

I love being able to see various aspects of a construction project from beginning to end. I also have a strong desire not to just help build houses but to build communities through social housing, schools, retail spaces, community centres – especially abroad as there are communities in Africa that need massive regeneration.

Most of my passion comes from my desire to inspire the next generation to pursue a career in construction because there’s a range of opportunities available – especially for ladies! I want them to consider careers within the industry despite the pre-conceived image. In order to do that I am constantly using the opportunities given to me to educate and inspire students. I never really had a role model within construction that I could look up to during secondary school and sixth form, so I am striving to offer that to young people who want help and guidance.

Stuart Gibbons, Regional Managing Director at Lovell London, commented: “Barbara’s technical talent alongside her infectious enthusiasm makes her a tremendous asset for Lovell and the industry.”

He added: “The percentage of women across Lovell London’s disciplines is 32% and we are proud to be leading the industry in this area.”


Lovell London

For nearly 50 years Lovell has been one of the UK’s leading partnership housing businesses with regional offices across the UK.  It is part of the £2.4 billion Morgan Sindall Group plc, operating as one of six divisions: construction and infrastructure, fit out, property services, partnership housing, urban regeneration and investments.

Having the capability to deliver complex residential led regeneration developments coupled with the financial strength of Morgan Sindall, Lovell London delivers projects with a high degree of certainty, consistently achieving the outcomes desired by its partners.

Lovell believes in responsible and sustainable business and seeks to work with partners who share its values.

Lovell London is the trusted partner of choice for local authorities, housing associations and homeowners. It works in long-term partnerships which transform communities and create amazing places where people want to live.


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