Being a Woman In Construction.
Conversation with Helen Mackenzie, Senior Inspector at HouseScan.
In an industry often characterised by hard hats, heavy machinery, and high beams, there’s a narrative that’s not told often enough: the journeys of women forging paths in construction. At HouseScan, we are not only committed to ensuring the integrity of your new builds but also to championing diversity in the industry. This week, we sit down with Senior Inspector, Helen Mackenzie. As we delve into Helen’s experience, we hope to illuminate the challenges faced by women in construction, celebrate their successes, and inspire the next generation of women in construction.
So Helen, as an incredibly experienced Inspector, what's your experience been like as a female in the Construction industry?
My experience as a female in the construction industry has been very positive. There is a culture of respect fostered within the industry and on the construction sites themselves towards women that has provided me, over the years, with a safe and supported working environment. I can hand on heart say that I have never experienced anything that has made me feel uncomfortable or dis-respected. It has been quite the opposite.
From the recruitment process right through to the day to day of working life, the equality in the working environment for me personally, has been exemplary. Occasionally I do experience surprise that the Snagging Inspector is a woman but as soon as the conversation starts about the love and knowledge of construction, any reservations disappear and the swapping of experiences, knowledge and shared personal connections in the industry begins. It’s a small world in construction and a rather nice one, on the whole.
The support out there to progress women within the industry can only continue to grow and I know from talking to other women that my experience isn’t the same for every woman so there is work still to be done and I hope to be a positive contributor to that.
How have you seen this industry evolve since your time working in Inspection?
During my time in Inspection, I have seen more and more women choosing construction related jobs and climbing the ladders within their field, with the support of those around them. From more women on site now employed in traditionally male roles such as bricklaying and plumbing, to Manager, Site Manager and Heads of Construction roles being taken up by women, there has been a noticeable change on construction sites over the last few years.
I have also seen a shift in the culture of housebuilding to a more customer focused outlook. The standards of quality have improved over the years in leaps and bounds, despite the calendar fluctuations in quality that happen each year. I have also seen improvements in the escalation process for homeowners who remain dissatisfied with their properties.
There is still a way to go with this and hopefully the channels will continue to expand. Understanding of fire and safety considerations around domestic dwellings has greatly improved within the industry and many developers now have in place many more stage checks, internally and externally than there were previously in those areas. This can only give more homeowners peace of mind that their homes are safe for their families.
Lastly, how would you like it to progress? Anything you'd change to the industry?
Slow down! I’d personally like the build programs of developers to slow down a little. When I first arrive at a property, I like to have a long, face to face chat with the homeowners, we put the kettle on, sit down and discuss their experience of purchasing a new build and talk about the first impression of their new home. If they have called Housescan in, it is usually for one of two reasons, either they are disappointed with their property and want a professional opinion or they are unsure what to record on a snagging list, having no experience of such matters.
Usually, they have their own short list and that’s wonderful because it gives me a good idea of what is important to them. You’d be surprised how much that varies, some homeowners want the structural elements checked by an experienced Inspector and others are more concerned with the cosmetic finish. Both are valid and Housescan Inspectors pride themselves on checking everything. But one of the phrases I say to homeowners over and over again is that ‘build programs can have an inevitable effect on quality’. I firmly believe that no site sets out to build a poor quality house. In fact, in my experience of having worked with many Site Managers, it’s quite the opposite.
Everyone on site that I’ve observed over the many years I’ve been inspecting is invested in building a good house, it’s the culture of most developers. However, financial considerations and material delays to name but two of the many variables that occur on site, have a knock on effect on the house that finally pops out at the other end of the build. I inspect some very well built houses. I inspect houses where the finish is impressive. I can tell instantly that they’ve had the time to finish them off the way that they wanted to, it shows. And I can instantly tell when it’s been rushed, when things have inevitably been missed. So if I had a magic wand and I could change the industry, I would wish for more time, for great builders to have more time to build great homes for the sake of our homeowners.