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Do you want to push boundaries in your career? Hear these stories and #BEInspired

[pullquote]”You must put your heart and soul into [your career], if you’re going to make it work.” Victoria Hills, CEO, OPDC. [/pullquote]


Over 150 women and men from across the built environment came together on 20th September to #BEInspired by our speakers’ stories and to network with their colleagues. The theme for the event, organised by the BRE Women’s Network, was to showcase inspiring women and promote strength in diversity for the built environment.

But why do we need this type of event? On average women make up 50% of the workforce, but within the construction industry, the figure is only 14%[1]. Evidence from McKinsey & Company shows companies that are more gender diverse are 15% more likely to perform better than those that are not[2]. Our sector cannot afford to not recruit (and importantly retain) half of its workforce; and as Virginia Newman said on the night, “the design and construction of the built environment is too important to be left to the men alone.”

Key themes on how to push boundaries in your career emerged from our three speakers and representatives of five industry women’s networks. These include:

  • Work within companies whose values match your own
  • Find challenges that inspire you and be committed to seeing these through
  • Never underestimate the power of volunteering
  • Let career breaks, whether these are to be a mother or to take a sabbatical, empower you.


Our key note speaker, Victoria Hills, talking of her career said “you must put your heart and soul into it, if you’re going to make it work” and highlighted the value of volunteering and networking. Charlotte Wilberforce talked of the importance of finding something you genuinely care about and ensuring you are inspired by those you work for and with. Haley Gryc @ArupGroup showed us that your aspirations can change and taking and actively seeking new opportunities can lead you to your dream role. See all of the talks from Savoy place on BRE’s Conferences Youtube channel.

We also asked our audience, individuals who spanned different stages and roles in their careers, what education bodies, employers and the government can do to attract and retain a diverse workforce. The overarching feedback to schools and universities is to tie female role models in the built environment to the curriculum and to integrate better with industry. Employers should provide and encourage better mentoring (structured or organic) and embrace flexible working for men and women. Finally, to our government, attendees want to see EU legislation protecting women’s rights to equality in pay, and protection from discrimination at work upheld and regulate so that women with families can financially and flexibly return to work. Full results from our poll will be published via LinkedIn.

Many thanks to all of the Women’s Networks and attendees who participated in this collaborative event. We could not have put on the event without our partners, CABE, CIOB, Atkins, Perkins+Will and the IET – thank you for your support.

This event has helped me to understand my wife’s challenges better. Everyone should hear these stories.” [Attendee.]

Full links to the event videos are found below – watch and #BEInspired!








Event highlights:


Helen Pineo, Associate Director – Cities, BRE, founder of the BRE’s Women’s Network:

Stories that push boundaries:

Victoria Hills, CEO, Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation:

Charlotte Wilberforce, Partner and Business Director, Martha Schwartz Partners:

Haley Gryc @ArupGroup Associate Development consultant, Arup:

Women’s Networks pecha kucha:

Charlotte Morphet, Women in Planning, “What are the defining characteristics of successful professionals in your field and who can you point to as role models for these traits?“

Benita Mehra, Women’s Engineering Society, “What is the biggest challenge for women in the built environment?”

Emma Nicholson, Women in Sustainable Construction and Property, “What event has your network organised that had impact beyond your expectation, what was achieved, how and with who?”

Virginia Newman, Women in Architecture, “Women-in Groups – are they still needed?”

Jackie Richards, Women in the Built Environment, “What’s the biggest challenge for women in the built environment and why?”

[1] CIC (2016) Measuring success and sharing good practice. Available at:

[2] McKinsey & Company (2015) Diversity matters, V Hunt, D Layton, S Prince.