Construction industry urged to change its attitude over female staff

Gill Kirkness

A Thomas & Adamson director is urging the construction industry to ‘look beyond gender’, ahead of International Women’s Day (March 8).

Gill Kirkness, regional director at the property and construction consultancy, said employers should consider the best person for the job.

According to statistics from ReBuild, a campaign project set up by senior directors in the construction industry following last year’s International Women’s Day, only 15% of the construction industry’s workforce are women; just 15% are executives; 22% of board members are women; and the gender pay gap in the industry is at 20%.

Gill Kirkness joined Thomas & Adamson earlier this year to lead its portfolio of public and private sector clients, which includes providing cost management support for the regeneration and extension of Glasgow’s 150 St Vincent Street to provide 152,000 sq ft Grade A office accommodation. Previously she held roles of equity director at Doig & Smith and project director at Axiom Project Services Limited, in a career spanning over 25 years.

Gill said, “As a senior director in the construction industry, I really do feel it’s time to change working practices in the sector so that people with the talent and skills can shine through. Throughout my 25-year career I have always been described as a ‘woman’, in the construction industry.

“Never is a man described as a man first and his position after, and I don’t see why women should be singled out and treated differently in this way. It diminishes my level of experience.

“I strongly believe whatever the project, it should always be about recruiting the best person for the job. There are generations of talented women and girls who have missed out on the construction industry because they weren’t considered suitable, and it is time for that attitude to change.”

Gill’s entry to the industry began some 25 years ago as a geography graduate wondering what to do next. She joined Tarmac Construction’s graduate training programme as a trainee quantity surveyor. Gill stayed with Tarmac for seven years working on a range of projects including a HQ building, a new build prison, the M6 widening at Thelwall, a new build shopping centre in London, and the Channel Tunnel.

She joined Thomas & Adamson following a six-month sabbatical pursuing a passion project in gelato making in Bologna. Gill is a director and trustee of Ronald McDonald House in Glasgow, who give parents and care givers a free ‘home from home’ to stay while their child is in hospital. She continues to take an active role in the running and fundraising of the Scottish charity.