Aisling Kenny is forging a career path as a woman in the construction industry. Working as a HR Director in a male-dominated industry Aisling is more knowledgeable than most about what it takes to get women into roles and industries that have historically been monopolised by men.
In our latest blog Aisling conveys her experiences working in the construction industry while sharing her wisdom on how we can get more women into these roles.
On being a woman in the construction industry
Being a HR director, it’s not an uncommon role for a woman to occupy! However in the male-dominated world of a Builders Merchants, it does mean I bring a different dynamic to the team.
I have been pretty lucky that I haven’t really experienced any significant barriers. At times I have been judged based on my age – I was 33 when I took up my role on the Buildbase Board, and most of the guys were more than 10 years older than me – but the key for me was just to show them that my age didn’t make me any less capable than them. I was never going to be a challenger to them and their experience, but I was going to show them that I had something to bring to the table that was different and added value. 4 years on, I am proud to say that I am an equal member of the Board, who has made a meaningful impact.
You don’t have to be loud and outgoing to be successful or to have your voice heard. You will find your own way and style which will be just as successful, and will allow you to stay true to yourself.
As the senior leaders of the business, we have a duty to recognize that unfortunately the world right now is not an equal one. If we want to make a difference, we need to start with thinking about our own behaviours and actions.
If you are excluding someone – consciously or unconsciously – because they are female, young etc., then you could be excluding the best person you might ever have on your team.
It’s a tricky one, because if you aren’t careful, you will get those organisations who will give someone a job just so they can hit the quota. For me, no one should ever be given a job because it helps a company tick a box. That said, having quotas does start the conversation, and if it means that a more diverse range of people are considered for a role, that can only be a good thing.
“If you come up against a setback, don’t let it stop you. If you are passionate about what you want to achieve, keep going.”
On being a great mum and successful
It’s probably a cliché, but my 2-year-old son is my proudest achievement, he is awesome! From a work perspective, it would be achieving the role I have at the age that I did. But perhaps more that it would be my team. In our recent engagement survey they rated us as a 3 star team, and they have achieved some brilliant things in the last year, with more to come. As an introverted and more reserved person, I never saw myself as a ‘leader of men (or women!)’, but I’m clearly doing something right.
I just do my role being true to my own values, which mean valuing my team and being passionate about what I am trying to achieve.
Holiday time for me is really important, so when I am on holiday, I have truly left the building – no work phone, no work email! Switching off is vital. It gives you time to stop and reflect, and let’s you recharge your batteries before you do it all again.
On the future
I’d love to take Buildbase to be a 3 star, highly engaged business. The business has come so far in the recent years, and that for me would be the recognition for all the hard work we’ve put in.
If you’ve enjoyed reading about Aisling’s experiences in the construction industry from board level but want a taste for what life is like for women on site then make sure to check out our blog from Katie Kelleher - the woman who operates the tallest crane in the UK.