8th March 2024

International Women’s Day with Joanna Kuzelewska

On International Women's Day, Joanna Kuzelewska, Senior Design Manager, discusses how the industry needs to continue to evolve to become an increasingly inclusive environment.

With International Women’s Day focusing on ‘inspiring inclusion’, we sat down with Joanna Kuzelewska, Senior Design Manager to discuss how the construction industry has changed over the past two decades.

Flexible working

Special Projects Team, Westbury HotelSpecial Projects Team, Westbury HotelHaving moved to the UK from Poland over 20 years ago to pursue a career in construction, Joanna has witnessed an industry transform. “I’ve seen a change both when it comes to women on site and on developing the policies to inspire inclusion in the wider sector,” she says. “When I first stepped into the industry, being a woman of minority background in a senior position was so rare that it was almost unthinkable”.

With long hours and a lack of flexibility hallmarks of the job when she first entered the profession, Joanna saw first-hand how many women found it near impossible to balance work and personal responsibilities. “Fortunately”, she says, “I’ve seen quite a big change in recent years, spurred on by Covid, with workplaces becoming much more flexible.”

“But inclusion isn’t a moment, it’s a mindset, and so we ensure this change becomes permanent it is vital that companies implement policies that allow flexibility in workload and working hours to allow women to fulfil both their professional and personal lives,” she adds.

This approach is reflected in Sir Robert McAlpine’s flexible working policy, which is not just about working from home, but also making adjustments to working hours and working life; imagining and creating an environment that is suitable to everyone’s needs. This involves guidance for managers in creating a workplace on site, which is responsive to the needs of women throughout their careers.

What more can be done?

Special Projects Team, Westbury Hotel“It’s really great to see how far the industry has come since I started” says Joanna, “but there isn’t a single place where we wouldn’t be able to improve”. In Joanna’s eyes, the chief issue is ensuring the industry values women for their talent, not their gender, and that all women in the industry are afforded equal rights, with equal pay.

However, she is optimistic about the future of women in construction, citing the number of female CEOs that have been appointed in the last year. Her advice for women entering the industry? “Don't be afraid to speak up”.

Putting policies in place

And though there is still work to be done – progress implies continuous change, after all – the industry can be proud of the strides it has already taken. Indeed, the sector is almost unrecognisable from the one that Joanna joined more than 20 years ago that didn’t even have female toilets on site.

“Things are totally different now,” notes Joanna. “In fact, we even have a policy in place to ensure that sanitary products are available on every site, no matter how remote. Unthinkable twenty years ago.”

And this is not all. In recent years, Sir Robert McAlpine has put a number of policies in place to drive inclusion. Whether it’s the Gender Equality Network, which informs our inclusion strategy, or our industry leading 26-week parental leave package for all parents, we’re always striving to do better. On top of this, there is guidance and policies for managers relating to an array of issues from the menopause to baby loss.

There is still some way to go, but we now have so many initiatives, with so many great people involved, that I really think we are heading in the right direction, and as we celebrate International Women’s Day we should also take a moment to celebrate all the work that has been done to truly inspire inclusivity.

Joanna Kuzelewska

Joanna Kuzelewska, Senior Design Manager.

News and comment

  1. Mekha Rajesh

    Introducing Mekha Rajesh on International Women's Day

    07 Mar 2024

    For International Women's Day, we meet Graduate Civil Engineer, Mekha Rajesh who is currently working on our Derby Kingsway Hospital project. Here, she shares more about her path into construction and how she believes diversity and inclusion contribute to the success of projects.

    Read more about Introducing Mekha Rajesh on International Women's Day
View further news