International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This year the theme is ‘embrace equity’ that refers to fairness and justice. So, whereas ‘equality’ means providing the same to all, ‘equity’ means recognising that we do not all start from the same place and must acknowledge and make adjustments to imbalances. Embracing equity is a means to equality. 

Our Diversity and Inclusion network asked four colleagues to share more about their experiences of working within the construction industry; including what they think about IWD, equality and about how they’re helping to drive positive change both within Keyline and the industry. 

Our Diversity and Inclusion Network spoke to 
Amy Desai, Finance Manager at Keyline.
Karen Horsley, Programme Manager 
Georgie Johnson, Branch Manager at Keyline Leeds 
Michelle Kinsalla, Regional Sales Director – South & South East 


QUESTION 1: Why is International Women's Day a positive initiative, especially for our sector?

Georgie Johnson says: “It is a good opportunity to reflect and celebrate the huge progress and positive changes that have been made, increasing not only the representation of females in the industry, but in senior positions too, which then gives other women role models to show the glass ceiling can and is being broken.” 

In agreement, Michelle Kinsalla commented: “It gives women a platform to show how strong and successful they are; how to deal with balancing work life and deal with the challenges women face in the workplace. For the construction industry, I think it highlights the changes within the industry and gives a platform for people to find out more. It's going to highlight that diversity and inclusion isn't a tick box. It's something we all need to embrace within all aspects of diversity and inclusion.”  

According to Amy Desai, “It raises awareness and highlights the inequalities that still exist in many areas. It’s great to help call out inequality and break the bias with examples of women who are thriving in our industry.” 

While Karen Horsley thinks, “it showcases the incredible women in business, which shows younger generations what can be achieved.” 

QUESTION 2 – How are you and Keyline impacting positive change in the industry (and supporting new generations of female talent)? 

Karen Horsley explained: “I am part of the TP Inc (gender balance) network and have been part of the menopause working group that last year helped launch the Group menopause policy. I am also currently taking part in the generation coffee catch ups with the Youth board. I would encourage others to get involved as it's been really interesting seeing things through a different lens.”

“Keyline is supporting new generations of talent, regardless of gender. Neither age or gender are a barrier to working in our business and the number of apprentices and colleagues under 25 shows this.”     

Georgie Johnson is also passionate about supporting more young women into the sector, she told us: “I think it is important to try to help other young females progressing in their careers by supporting them wherever you can; opening the doors for others is so important. I have recently promoted a young female, Emma Cartman, to Branch Operations Manager, creating a new role and opportunity for her to step up and lead a team, which I have no doubt she will succeed in. As well as supporting her own development, I aim to work together to build a culture of helping the next individual coming into the industry so we have a strong talent pipeline and support network for the future female leaders.” 

“The best thing we can do is to show younger people the opportunities within the industry”, says Michelle Kinsalla. “Once we start highlighting this we will be able to attract a more diverse group of people. I am being a role model to women and showing that you can do the jobs that the industry would perceive are a male's job. It makes me proud to be an example to women demonstrating that you can succeed in the construction industry. 

“I was also a women in construction ambassador for London Build in 2020. I hosted a seminar (virtually) with over 150 people to talk about TP Group & Diversity. I then hosted a discussion panel, engaging 5 people from the industry in a discussion on the challenges around diversity. On a personal level I’m also being a role model for my Niece. She is considering a career within construction because she has seen what I am doing. I am also showing working hard towards something will give you a career. 

“I am also working with my Branch Sales Manager to lead new generations of female talent and be a role model for them to aspire to be what they want to be. I would like to encourage youth into the business.”  

As a strong role model to others in the sector, Amy Desai explained, “By being part of the Construction Industry and Keyline and being from an ethnic minority, as well as a female in a historically male dominated industry, I’m helping to make a positive impact on change. Having been able to progress in the company and raise my profile, starting off as an Apprentice, I believe that this has helped change perceptions of who can succeed in this industry regardless of gender and allow me to be supportive of other females and ethnic minorities in the industry.

“I have recently been enrolled in the Mission Gender Equity Mentoring programme and will be attending a networking event on 28th February for this with Mentee's & Mentor's. TP Group being a part of this and encouraging this amongst women in the industry was something I wasn't previously aware of. So far it has been a great opportunity to speak and hear from other women across different industries and hear and share stories.

“Keyline have an amazing apprenticeship scheme that encourages females and people of all ages and backgrounds to develop through the company and support the new generation in the industry. Through apprenticeships, there are no barriers to entry.  I really believe this helps shape a diverse workforce and in turn the future of the industry.” 

QUESTION 3 - What would you say to women that are unsure about joining the construction industry?

Karen Horsley says: “There are so many roles within our businesses, from branch to sales offices, and all the support functions in between and some of the barriers that existed have changed with support from our life events policies like adoption, career break, flexible working, menopause, maternity leave (incl surrogacy) and shared parental leave.   

“Construction has so many roles that people don't think about - I never did when I applied for my first role in Keyline almost 11 years ago.  It had never crossed my mind to work in the construction industry, but it is so much more than blocks, bricks and cement.” 

“People think it is a man's world and that it is working on site but there are so many opportunities within the industry”, adds Michelle Kinsalla. “This isn't a man's world, it's a world with so many opportunities to build a career within.”  

The advice from Georgie Johnson is: “Construction as an industry is not an obvious choice for many people and I think more needs to be done to raise awareness of the career opportunities, especially highlighting the wide ranges of apprenticeship options available to young people. There are real life stories in our group which show how our apprenticeships have helped colleagues with their careers. For females within the industry, continuing to reach out to each other, talk through challenges so you can draw off others' experiences and build a strong supportive network is key.” 

While Amy Desai’s advice is: “The industry is evolving and is a much more welcoming place than it might look. The image associated with the industry that comes to mind is manual labour. Our industry is much more than this. I have gone from starting in the yard, working in Tool Hire, to working in a branch, working in an office and now working from home. It is not one shoe fits all, there's a variety of roles that are available.” 

QUESTION 4 – Why is equality so important? 

“Equality is essential”, says Georgie Johnson. “A team needs people with different viewpoints and ideas to move forward and be one step ahead of the competition. Different experiences and skills in a group will always help a team perform better together and make more informed and creative decisions. It also means the wellbeing of all colleagues are considered as people understand individual needs and how to help each other.” 

According to Amy Desai it’s important, “so that people from all races, backgrounds, genders can thrive together and embrace different and dynamic views & ideas. To be inclusive, as part of a diverse workforce, will help encourage more diverse people to join and contribute to the industry.” 

“Having a more diverse workforce will give you different viewpoints in situations and make you more successful”, agrees Michelle Kinsalla.  

This was Karen Horsley’s belief as well, who comments: “A more diverse workforce is a better workforce, and prospective colleagues want to work for a company that embraces diversity and inclusion. Younger colleagues will expect it and if we want to attract the best talent we need to represent the community we serve. Representation is really important.” 
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