After qualifying as a quantity surveyor, Rachel Lines found that whilst she was treated respectfully as a woman in the workplace, things changed when she became a mother. After being denied reduced working hours when returning from maternity leave, Rachel left the construction industry in search of a more flexible environment.
Through Rachel’s new job in a school, she met Sue Archer, a director at Gleeds, who offered Rachel a part-time job. Here Rachel shares with us the challenges of returning to construction after a seven-year break and how Gleeds has supported here to reach her position today.
When you joined Gleeds, did you feel support was provided to ensure you felt comfortable settling into a new environment?
I was initially worried about the transition from working in a school environment to a career in the city. Given the time I needed to dedicate to parental duties. I was sceptical about whether remote working would be a possibility despite being told it would be, but it soon became evident this was the norm in our department.
The ability to work from home meant that within 10 months I increased my working week to four days a week. My boss has since championed and mentored me into eventually becoming full time.
What factors do you believe contributed to your success?
I would not have been as successful without the encouragement and support from both my line manager and deputy director. They are great role models, particularly as successful individuals who are mothers themselves. The confidence from the rest of the team, particularly some of the younger more junior members, also helped me to succeed.
The comfort of not being constantly watched if I was late in due to family matters, meant I could feel confident in my work and relieved the stress of being a working parent. Acknowledgement from my managers of family importance, meant I could deal with all aspects of my life confidently.
How did this help you to achieve your goals?
The flexibility Gleeds extended to me both initially in allowing me to work part time and the ability to work remotely, relieved many of the stresses I had experienced previously as a working parent. I could be a parent and have a career without compromise, this allowed me to concentrate on my work and ambition without any sacrifices if I wanted to progress.
In the four years since I started at Gleeds as a Project Manager I have regained membership of the RICS and been promoted to Senior Project Manager and then Associate Director.
What advice would you give to other women looking to progress their careers within the construction industry?
The project management team in London has a high percentage of females, including at least three that are either part time or have flexible hours, including a director, to enable them to be mothers as well as having a career.
The ability to work remotely is key to this. Having struggled as a working mum in my early career, I now know it is possible to be successful in a career and a hands on parent. I would encourage other women in the industry not to think twice about whether they can juggle motherhood and a successful career. It is doable, and they should not compromise.
If an employer is not sympathetic towards flexible working, then go elsewhere. Believe in you, be confident in your ability and never think you are not good enough.