A regional housebuilding boss in Surrey hopes that her taking up a top job in the industry will help pave the way for her four young nieces as she calls for more black women to join the sector.
Dawnet McLaughlin, MD of Guildford-based Vistry Southern – which includes Bovis and Linden Homes – says young black people feel there are not enough role models in housebuilding and that more needs to be done in schools and colleges to promote the wide variety of roles in the sector.
Her comments come during Black History Month, which first launched more than 30 years ago for local communities to challenge racism and educate themselves and others about British history that was not taught in schools.
Dawnet, who followed her father’s footsteps into the industry, said: “My dad was a carpenter by trade, so that attracted me to the industry in the first instance. I took an apprenticeship as a trainee surveyor after my A-Levels and went on to complete a surveying degree on a part-time basis, one day a week, while employed in the industry.
“I then went on to achieve an MBA, again while working. I'm delighted to be MD of Vistry Southern, we need to push the diversity message and promote the wide range of job roles there are in the industry, in terms of what you can do, and what you can become.
"We’ve got so many disciplines in this industry, and we need to make the most of all the talent and potential that’s out there. You still hear about construction and housebuilding not being pushed at school career events and for me, I’d like to get more involved in that. That’s one thing I’m conscious needs doing, getting out there and spreading the message that, regardless of gender or colour, there are a huge amount of positions in the housebuilding industry for people at various levels, whether that’s in an office or on site.
“There are not enough black women in the housebuilding industry. I am meeting black women in the sector, a few of whom I have involvement with at Vistry, but not many. A lot of work needs to be done to change this. We need to get the message out there that there is the opportunity to do something different in Vistry, and the sector as a whole, and that there are people like me in different job positions in housebuilding to set that example.
“The one thing I sometimes feel for young black people is they don’t always have the examples or role models to say, ‘you can do that’, particularly black women. I’d like to say this: the opportunities are there for you. At Vistry, we are more diverse and not as ‘traditional’ as other housebuilders I have experienced – and I felt that as soon as I walked into the company. That’s particularly true at the top of the business and hopefully that will filter through and make a difference in terms of moving the housebuilding industry forward.
“For me, that’s one of the biggest reasons I took the MD position. I’ve got four nieces and I want them to know they can do whatever they put their minds to, I don’t want them to be held back because they’re female or black. If I’ve paved the way even a little bit for them, that moves things forward and I hope it makes their progress just that little bit easier. Even if it takes years or decades, we need to take these steps forward as an industry.”
Dawnet added demand for new-build homes within Vistry Southern – which covers Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex – had remained high over the past six months, with more people looking to move out of London.
“A lot of our locations are near the south coast and, with everything going on at the moment, we’re seeing a lot of people moving out of London into Surrey and Hampshire, so we are getting the benefit of people moving out of the capital,” she added. “We have big developments including Boorley Park in Botley and Whiteley Meadows in North Whiteley. There are over 1,000 homes to be built on each of those developments and we’re selling a lot on those sites.
“We also have developments that are close to country parks and with good transport links which are added attractions. We’re just finishing off a Linden Homes site in Ringwood, called Beaumont Park, which is close to Bournemouth. Those kinds of developments don’t come up very often but they are great for us, and represent exactly what home hunters are looking for now.”
Contact: Chris Campbell, Vistry Group, 01242 388713; firstname.lastname@example.org.
28 October 2020
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