As the daughter of Jamaican parents who arrived in the UK in the 1960s, Dawnet McLaughlin grew up in a society that made her feel as if she had more to prove than other people.
As a woman now working in the still male-dominated property industry, she’s been able to turn that determination to her advantage; progressing her career to become commercial director at top five housebuilder Linden Homes’ South region.
Her taste for building was piqued growing up in Reading, where she still lives. Her mother was a nurse, but it was her carpenter father whose footsteps she has more closely followed since accompanying him when she was little to sites he was working on. She loved the liveliness and energy of a development.
Now 43, Dawnet has a BSc (hons) degree in quantity surveying and MBA under her belt and nearly 25 years of professional experience in the industry. She joined Linden Homes in January 2015 and works from the company’s Guildford office.
“I was exposed to construction at a young age,” she explained. “So I was always interested. I was quite arty too and I thought I would go down the architect route. I studied A-levels but the academic side didn’t suit me and five years of studying to become an architect didn’t appeal at the time.
“So when someone suggested surveying I realised it would fit with my liking for working with numbers, problem solving and project management, and it was from there that my career began.”
“When I entered the industry, I did feel that as a young female I had to work harder at the beginning of a project or with a new team to prove myself and gain credibility, which was not necessarily a bad thing. I remember some of the challenges used to include frustration with the odd derogatory comment or something as simple as visiting development sites and finding there were no separate toilets for women – there were so few women working in the industry then that there was no need for anyone to consider it.
“But that sort of thing did not worry me much. You have got to be yourself and have the confidence to know that you can do whatever you put your mind to. If you sit there and worry about it you won’t get anywhere – you just have to press ahead and prove that you can do it.”
Dawnet’s success story is the kind of achievement Linden Homes is trying to reproduce around the country through sponsoring the National Student Awards 2016, a search by the Association of Women in Property for the industry’s most promising student.
The situation is improving steadily, Dawnet thinks, partly thanks to more flexible working: “There are more women in technical positions; there are two in my surveying department. People are starting to realise that it’s becoming more common and are increasingly trying to get the right people into the right role, rather than worrying if they are a man or a woman.
“It’s an advantage for the industry because women have a different drive and personality; they complement the guys. Around the boardroom table, for example, having women shapes the conversation differently, gives you different opinions and methods of problem-solving.”
For young women starting out on their own career in property – whether still in education or at work – she advises: “It’s a great industry where women can thrive. There are different sides to the business that can pick up on your skills. There’s really something for everyone.”
Tom Nicholson, Linden Homes’ divisional managing director, said: “Dawnet has really made her mark at Linden Homes with her ability and determination. We need to support even more women to bring their talents to the industry and show the next generation what is possible.
“Encouraging women into the property sector is why Linden Homes is sponsoring the Women in Property’s National Student Awards. It’s the kind of action that promotes equality and will help to close the skills gap and provide the homes we need.”
Media can contact Tracy Mannion, Claire Cathersides, Emma Cox or Kelly Ward at Remarkable Content on 01962 893893 for more information, images and interviews with Linden Homes.
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