Women In Property Case Study: Jennifer Winyard
04 Dec 2015

Jennifer Winyard, Linden Homes’ Strategic Land and Planning Manager, was just 10 years old when she realised she wanted to work in property.

“It was art, design and maths which set me wondering as a child about how I could use that subject in a job,” she said. “Someone suggested architecture might be a good route for me and, from that point, all my studies went in that direction.”

Jennifer’s ambition was given an extra shot when one of the teachers at her girls’ school in West Kirby, Wirral, challenged her: “Why would you want to do that? It’s so male-dominated.”

“That was actually in the 1990s,” says Jennifer, exasperated. “And I thought, that’s it – that’s a very negative viewpoint.”

Spurred on, she read architecture at Newcastle University but during a year out in fourth year she increasingly appreciated the significance of urban design – as well as the friction that can occur between planners and architects.

At the age of 32, she is Chartered Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and is working towards her Membership to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (MRICS).

“I thought I would go back and study a masters in planning because, having studied architecture, I can see it from both sides – how architecture and planning should fit together holistically,” she explained. “I often think, why aren’t there more architects in planning?”

At Linden Homes it’s her abilities and potential that have been recognised, she explains, regardless of her gender. She hopes that as more women are treated this way, the career avenue will become clearer for the next generation of girls and young women to follow too.

Jennifer, who lives in Leeds and works from Linden Homes’ Wetherby office, has done more than just lead by example. As well as chairing the Royal Town Planning Institute’s Yorkshire branch, she is past chair of the Yorkshire and North East branch of Women in Property – an organisation dedicated to supporting women in the industry and highlighting their contribution.

Bringing more women into the property sector is the inspiration behind her involvement in the National Student Awards, a nationwide search by the Association of Women in Property for the industry’s most promising student.

Top five housebuilder Linden Homes is sponsoring the 2016 competition, in which Jennifer has already played a leading role for the last four years by judging the regional heats in the north of England.

Despite being a woman working in such a male-dominated industry, the biggest challenge Jennifer feels is breaking through the professional barriers to bridge the divide between the disciplines of planning and surveying.

In fact, often being the only woman in the room can be an advantage, she said: “People remember you.” However, she concedes that higher up the ladder fewer women occupy the top jobs and girls are often unaware of the array of jobs in construction.

“It’s not just about jobs on-site,” says Jennifer. “I’m really interested in making sure female graduates are aware of what we offer. It’s also about talking about housebuilding at school. We must explain the vast amount of opportunities and roles available.”

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