Linden Western’s new managing director champions women in construction
19 Dec 2022

Linden Western’s new managing director champions women in construction

Emma Colin has been appointed managing director of Vistry Western and says she’s proud to be at the helm of a housebuilding region that has an equal ratio of male and female directors.

While the construction industry has come a long way in achieving a more diverse and equal workforce, the Chartered Institute of Building reports women still only make up 15 per cent of the industry.

Vistry, which builds Bovis and Linden properties, 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.

Emma, 38, is responsible for 142 employees. Her job involves managing the business and overseeing each department, ensuring the timely delivery of new homes in the Western region, which includes South Gloucestershire, Bristol, North Somerset, Somerset, Wiltshire and Wales.

She commented: “In this day and age, having a balanced workforce should be the norm but in construction that is not the case. 34 per cent of all of our employees at Vistry are female, compared to the industry’s 15 per cent average, but there’s still a lot of work to do to ensure we attract and retain a more diverse workforce. I feel the responsibility to call out behaviour, showcase best practise and be open about any struggles, so we can help spread change.

“I’m proud we have an equal number of male and female directors in the Western region. Having a balanced board provides different perspectives; we’re constantly learning from each other and it’s wonderful to see these different approaches having a positive effect on the working environment.”

Emma said colleagues were surprised how open she was about imposter syndrome: “The word imposter has negative connotations but I actually think imposter syndrome should be celebrated – none of us are the finished package, we need to listen and learn continuously.

“Everyone has their specialisms at work and you’d have to be ignorant to think, as a boss, you know more about that subject than those with years of experience or relevant degrees in their field. Each department will know best about their specialities but as MD you have the full picture to guide the team. It’s all about communication and the people – if you have the right individuals in the right roles, then everything clicks into place.”

With 17 years’ experience in the industry, Emma started her career in interior design, which triggered her passion for property. She was promoted internally from her position as Group customer success director and had previously undertaken roles as sales and marketing director, head of new homes at Strutt and Parker and head of international sales and marketing for Ballymore in London. In the latter, she was involved in the impressive new US Embassy in zone one and the regeneration of the Leamouth peninsula in East London, which included the relocation of the English National Ballet and London Film School.

Emma is married to Lloyd and they live in the westcountry, near the beach, with their two dogs, Darcy and Dolly. She commented: “I’m incredibly proud to be managing director at Vistry Western, building well-designed new homes that complement their environment and benefit the local market. We’re delivering 550 properties this year across a range of developments, including large dual-branded consortium sites and joint venture schemes. Next year we have new sites launching in Wanborough, Congresbury, Netherhampton and Undy, which will be our first development in Wales.”

Emma, who enjoys netball and paddleboarding in her spare time, took the reins from Dave Farley. She said: “I’ve been very proud of the smooth transition this year. I was fortunate to shadow Dave before he prepared for retirement and he was so helpful in showing me the ropes.

“Our divisional chairman is also very supportive and that inclusive work culture comes from the very top – ensuring we all talk regularly and share ideas. I’m really excited about the future at Vistry and will continue to champion change by encouraging more women into the industry – it’s a brilliant, dynamic place to work.”

Between 2021-2022, Vistry promoted 11 females into director posts across the business; continued to support 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. The housebuilder has 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, particularly in light of the impact of Covid, 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.

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