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04 March 2024

Housing career builds a winning path for women in construction

From assistant to director, Sian Webster first found her feet in the housing industry in 2012. 

In her first graduate role, she joined a North East-based housing association after having a ‘lightbulb moment’ about wanting to do something related to development in the future.   

As National Careers Week (NCW) gets underway we’re taking a closer look at Housing as a career option and today we are focusing on construction side of the sector – specifically women in construction.  There is the idea that ‘if you can see it, you can be it’ and, although women do enter the industry, we recognise the need to see more representation of this.  


Are women what the construction industry needs now?  

We asked Sian Webster, Director of Development here at Yorkshire Housing, about her experience. She said: “The construction industry has got a severe skills shortage, and the talent pool is nearly half its potential. If more women viewed construction as a legitimate career choice, it would help alleviate some of the issues construction companies are experiencing.  

“Supporting young girls with career development is vital, and these programmes need to start at school. Bolstered by continuous development throughout their education, they should feel encouraged to pursue careers in construction.” 


Sian’s career development path - and advice 

Speaking about this time in her life when she began working as a graduate, Sian said: “I still didn’t know a lot about housing associations at that point and hadn’t realised it was a career option…but then I stumbled across the GEM, a graduate programme aimed at getting graduates into housing.”  

Since then, Sian was placed with the best (we might be a little biased…) - here, at Yorkshire Housing! Starting as a Development Assistant, she then progressed into being a Development Officer, Land Manager, Senior Land Manager, Head of Development, and now she is the Director of Development and Sales.  “I’ve had huge amounts of support at Yorkshire Housing and that’s enabled me to progress,” Sian said.  

NCW is a one-week celebration of careers guidance across the UK and provides an opportunity to focus support for people to develop awareness and excitement about their future career options. 

The construction industry is one with a large gender imbalance, with only 14% of the workforce being female. Sian’s role sits within this sector and, while the team at Yorkshire Housing doesn’t represent this imbalance, it’s seen much-needed improvements over the years.   


Sixty-six percent female Development Team at YH 

“I’m proud to work somewhere that treats everyone as equal and where 66% of the development team is female. This kind of diversity is really important, but it hasn’t always been easy.  

We asked Sian how we can encourage more women into construction. She said: “Women also need to be catered for on site. That means providing the right provisions and facilities. We need to offer flexibility and choice in how and where people work. Not every job in construction is based on site and more needs to be done at grass roots level to promote the range of jobs in the construction sector.” 

Now, after working her way up to Director of Development, Sian is eager to help support others with career development. Her advice for those looking to get into the construction industry is: “Create opportunities wherever you can. It’s unlikely anyone’s going to do it for you. Don’t be afraid to ask - if you don’t ask, you don’t get. And finally, be assertive - you belong where you are.”