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'Housebuilding is no longer an industry just for men': meet the women lobbying to save a troubled sector

The I Am A Housebuilder aims to get more women into the UK housebuilding sector (Handout)
The I Am A Housebuilder aims to get more women into the UK housebuilding sector (Handout)

There are currently only 297,000 women working in the UK’s construction industry, compared to some 1.8 million men.

A new campaign fronted by seven women who work in housebuilding is lobbying to change that.

Called I Am A Housebuilder, the initiative seeks to raise the profile of women in the industry, attract more women to apply for roles, create a mentoring network to help women into senior roles, and promote the sector to those who may not have considered it.

“Housebuilding is no longer an industry just for men,” said Georgina Hammond, co-founder and director of developers Beau Property.


“Women bring a level of creativity and empathy to housebuilding that I think really benefits the end homeowner.”

“Women bring a level of creativity and empathy to housebuilding.”

This diversity drive comes as the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) has opened an investigation into suspected anti-competitive conduct from eight of the UK’s largest housebuilding companies. The CMA said it uncovered evidence that housebuilders had been sharing information that could influence the prices of new build homes.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for SME Housebuilders believes that getting more women into the industry, particularly at developer level, is central to restoring the sector’s reputation.

“We need to reshape the public perception of the housebuilding industry,” said APPG chair Andrew Lewer, Conservative MP for Northampton South.

“The antiquated view held by some is harming the future growth of the industry — preventing us from seeing diversity, causing a skills shortage and depriving the industry from accessing a pool of incredible talent,” Lewer added. “We want to put an end to this once and for all.”

SME, or small and medium-sized enterprises currently account for 2,000 of the UK’s housebuilders, and less than two per cent of them are owned and led by women.

“The antiquated view held by some is harming the future growth of the industry.”

“As the only first-generation housebuilder in this group, I really want to encourage more young, ambitious women who do not have a family background in construction, to enter this incredible industry, said Xuan Meng, founder and director of developers Cozy Hauz.

“I want to share with them, what drives me — a strong commitment to delivering excellence within the property sector and a deep passion for personal and professional growth,” she added, highlighting that 50 per cent of her employees are women.

Sarah Barraclough, managing director of developers Skipton Properties said that more women would improve the industry.

“I believe that women bring a unique perspective to the table, often characterised by empathy, intuition, and a keen eye for detail,” she said

“[These are] all invaluable traits in an industry where human connection and attention to minutiae can make all the difference.”

Hammond, Meng and Barraclough are leading the I Am A Housebuilder campaign alongside Newman Rose director Rose Cassidy, Charlotte Edwards, managing director of Dennis Edwards Homes, Horgan Homes director Sophie Horghan, Alice Maughan, creative director and designer at Stronghold Homes.

The initiative comes as the housebuilding sector faces an image problem on many fronts.

New build homes in the UK, particularly those from high volume housebuilders, have gained an unfortunate reputation for being of poor quality. Inspection service New Home Quality Control regularly highlights issues with developments that range from minor snags to serious structural issues.

A recent report from the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has warned that this perception is seriously impacting the sector. Their survey of 2,000 UK adults found that 63 per cent of people were concerned about issues with new build housing.

“I really want to encourage more young, ambitious women who do not have a family background in construction, to enter this incredible industry.”

“Our research shows the majority view of new build homes is that they’re of low quality and this puts many people off from considering buying one,” said CIOB head of public affairs David Parry.

Meanwhile the dearth of women in the housebuilding sector has long been attributed to endemic sexism and discrimination.

A 2018 report carried out by trade publication Construction News and recruitment firm Randstad that surveyed 5,500 workers found that 48 per cent of women in the industry had experienced discrimination, while 28 per cent reported they had been subjected to  ‘comments or inappropriate behaviour’ from male colleagues.

Almost half of the 500 companies surveyed said they had never employed a woman as a manager, while 47 per cent had no women on their boards.

Ingrained sexism and accusations of cartel-like behaviour from large housebuilders are just some of the intersecting issues facing the housing sector.

With the UK deep in a housing crisis, the government estimates that 300,000 new homes need to be built every year. London needs 66,000 new homes a year according to the mayor’s office.

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) estimates that 250,000 additional construction workers will be needed by 2027 to meet this demand.

But housebuilding slowed dramatically in 2023 as mortgage costs spiked and house prices dropped. Figures published by the National House Building Council (NHBC) found that the number of new homes completed in the UK in the third quarter of 2023 fell 15 per cent compared to the same period of 2022.