International Women’s Day on 8th March provides the perfect opportunity to highlight achievements and #EmbraceEquality – the theme for 2023.
And where better to celebrate, than housebuilding – an industry which used to be almost exclusively male. Fast forward to the present day and it’s a very different story. The sector has seen huge improvements and while the male to female ratio is still not completely equal, it is far more balanced.
Grace Holton, who is a senior quantity surveyor for Housebuilding South West – which builds Linden Homes – said: “When I first started out, there were hardly any females in the role, so it’s great to see an increasing number of women in housebuilding.”
Grace, 28, has worked in the industry for over 10 years and would love to be a commercial director one day. She commented: “It’s amazing how much things have changed. I went to Chulmleigh College, which offered construction as a double GCSE, and it’s incredible that I was the only female in a class of 30 students. I loved the course and achieved two A grades, which I put down to growing up on a building site! My dad extended our cottage himself and was constantly making improvements, so he definitely inspired me from an early age.
“I wanted to be an architect but I wasn’t patient enough to study for seven years at university! So, after school, I went to Petroc College where I achieved a BTEC level three diploma in architectural surveying and the built environment. It was a fantastic course and I learnt so much as they encouraged practical learning: I was taught how to lay bricks, lime plaster, screed floors and skim.”
Grace achieved a HNC in construction management at UWE Bristol and Petroc College. She worked as a trainee quantity surveyor, gaining on the job experience at the A30 Cornwall Services project. She also held positions at Redrow and Baker Estates, before she joined Linden Homes in 2019.
Grace added: “I promised myself I’d be a quantity surveyor when I was 21 years old and I was promoted two weeks before my 22nd birthday – just in time!
“In the early days, I found it hard to be taken seriously. Being a female on site stood out as it was a rare occurrence but that just spurred me on. I soon realised that rather than tell people what I could do, if I just showed them then change would happen organically.
“Things are different now. One of my developments – Bay View in Northam – has a strong female site team, which is brilliant. There’s a female electrician, carpenter, apprentice assistant site manager, senior quantity surveyor, buyer, area sales manager and sales consultant.
“It’s great companies are now more inclusive and open. I don’t think the issues are with the employers any more, we seem to be there now. At Vistry, there are female managing directors and opportunities are available to everyone. I think the issue is rooted earlier than that – it’s encouraging children, their parents and teachers that there’s a diverse range of jobs available; I’d encourage anyone to consider housebuilding.”
Grace lives near Goodleigh, close to Barnstaple, with her partner, Phil, in a house on his family’s farm. They have a labrador, Molly, and three Polish Frizzle chickens to add to the farm’s menagerie! She added: “I absolutely love being on the farm. Working full-time and having lots of hobbies doesn’t enable me to be involved as much as I’d like but I do take part during busy periods – like lambing time and harvest.”
She also enjoys walking her dog on the South West coast path, horse-riding and clay shooting. However, her real love is autocross. Grace is a member of the Association of South Western Motor Clubs and drives her Peugeot 205 GTI, which has a fibreglass body and perspex windows – to ensure it’s light enough for racing – in championship races. She often competes against her dad, who shares her passion for the sport.
Grace added: “A mechanic – who’s a family friend – was once repairing my car and noticed I was very heavy on the accelerator! He suggested I give autocross a try; I was hooked immediately and I’ve been racing for the past seven years. It’s such a fun adrenalin rush, which enables you to switch off from everything else.
“I like challenging misconceptions and when people are surprised that I’m a female car-loving QS then I know there’s still more to be done!”
34 per cent of the workforce at Vistry is female, compared to the industry’s 15 per cent average. The company places a strong emphasis on addressing imbalance and has an active Diversity and Inclusion working group and committee, which promotes equality and represents minority groups throughout the business.
Ways Linden has implemented change:
• Between 2021-2022, the Vistry Group which Linden is part of, promoted 11 females into director posts
• Supported the use of the agile working policy to enable hybrid working
• Joined the ‘Women into Construction’ organisation, which has helped recruit women into all roles in the business
• Run events hosted by the ‘Women’s Network’ to promote the profile of women in construction
• Delivered recruitment training, which included the topic of ‘unconscious bias’ to support fair and consistent recruitment practice
• Analysed data on progression and pay gaps and produced action plans
• The company’s maternity leave policy has been reviewed and improved and the menopause guide sets out the support available to employees
For further information on International Women’s Day visit http://www.internationalwomensday.com
References to “we”, “us” or “our” are to the part of the Vistry Group (including Linden Homes, Bovis Homes, Countryside Homes, Drew Smith, Vistry Ventures or one of Vistry’s joint venture companies) from which you are intending to purchase a new home. References to "you” and “your” are to the prospective buyer or buyers of a new home from us.
All images are used for illustrative purposes only and are representative only. They may not be the same as the actual home you purchase and the specification may differ. Images may be of a slightly different model of home and may include optional upgrades and extras which involve additional cost. Individual features such as windows, brick, carpets, paint and other material colours may vary and also the specification of fittings may vary. Any furnishings and furniture are not included in any sale. Please check with our sales consultants for details of the exact specifications available at the development(s) for each type of home and the associated prices.