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  • Jason Kaye

Inspiring female leads and their top projects

Today businesses across the world will stand together in support of International Women’s Day – a celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

As part of our own #PressforProgress, we’ve spoken to some of Built-ID’s most inspiring female members to find out what drives them, their proudest moment and what they believe could bring real change to their industry.

“The perception of architecture as purely an artistic career choice needs to be challenged.”

Says Emily Pallot, Associate at Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt. As a passionate student of art and design as well as the sciences, Pallot took the route of architecture as it allowed her to feed a desire for growth in both creative and scientific fields, and she hasn’t looked back.

“Over the past seven years, I have been involved in many complex and award-winning schemes, playing an integral role in the company’s growth and success.”

Having experienced life as the only female architect in a practice of 17 males, Pallot is well aware of the diversity issues that can surface within her industry but firmly believes total parity is where success lies.

Emily Pallot, Associate at Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt

Emily Pallot, Associate at Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt (click to view more)

“I’ve always felt I have had the same opportunities as my male colleagues within the industry, although I know this isn’t always the reality.”
“Companies need to foster work environments in which people feel like they can be their true selves. This will lead to a more productive and creative team.”

It’s this desire for creativity and problem solving that has been of such benefit throughout various projects, including the 72-unit residential scheme Plevna Crescent. Pallot was lead Associate on the Haringey-based initiative and had to tackle the issue of the area’s challenging topography, but project-wide teamwork saw success come through. “We collaborated with both the client and the consultants to ensure the design was statutory compliant and also respectful of Jewish design requirements, such as ensuring each flat had a balcony with an open view to the sky. This informed the overall layout of the units and in turn influenced the elevational design of the development.”

Pallot, now on the senior management board at ACG – that boasts a 50:50 gender split – feels that there are wider diversity issues that need as much attention as gender equality.

“Gender seems to be at the centre of the diversity debate.” she says.
“But we need to consider all aspects of diversity within the industry, including sexual orientation, ethnicity, belief and disability to name a few.”

Haringey Housing/ Plevna Crescent

Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt- Haringey Housing/ Plevna Crescent- Click image see more

Greater inclusion and openness can only lead to positive results, as Gardiner & Theobald Partner, Katie Metcalf has found in her property-based role. After training as an accountant, Metcalf sought a career that she felt would provide a meaningful contribution to various projects.

Katie Metcal, Gardiner & Theobald Partner

Katie Metcal, Gardiner & Theobald Partner (click to view more)

“I had no idea the construction industry had so many great opportunities. The variety of people I work with is inspiring, challenging and always very rewarding.”

It’s the growing success of such collaborative efforts that have helped usher in a far more level playing field with regards to male-female staff ratios and with this balancing comes to an evolved view of – and within – the construction industry.

“The industry is so focused on people, our individual and combined success is fundamentally based on relationships and collaborative problem-solving.”

Metcalf recently worked on the new Westgate Shopping Centre in Oxford. “Being part of this project from planning stages through to procurement and delivery was a great experience.

The scheme was dynamic, challenging and exciting to work on. I loved it.”Forward-thinking Metcalf says she is inspired by the desire to contribute to a meaningful result – a building that people enjoy, a technology that makes us greener, a space that people love.

“I enjoy being part of a process that leaves a little footprint on life.

Fiona McDade - Currie & Brown

Fiona McDade, Currie & Brown (click to view more)

Once the lone woman in project meetings, Currie & Brown’s Fiona McDade has seen progressive changes since joining the industry in 1987.

“I have more female clients and within our office, there is a better balance of male and female staff. The construction industry should no longer be considered a male-dominated profession.”

McDade was part of the team that worked on the refurbishments of the Monklands Hospital intensive care unit, the largest operation that aimed to deliver refurbishments for NHS Lanarkshire.

“I have particularly fond memories of the project due to the collaborative team approach to addressing the challenges we faced when developing a phased programme of work. This project provided us with the opportunity to engage in a formal collaborative partnership with NHS Lanarkshire, leading to our BS11000 certification.”

Sarah Brown, director of TateHindle, echoes McDade’s sentiment and bases her own team-leading philosophy on ensuring tasks are delegated to the best-suited individual. Constantly striving to champion greater teamwork and better services, Brown recognises that the desire to improve all aspects of the business never ends. One element that Brown believes sets herself apart from other architects is her approach to new projects, which she says is always without preconceptions. “I listen to the client and understand what they want before I build my thoughts of what will work.”

Sarah Brown, Director of TateHindle

Sarah Brown, Director of TateHindle (click to view more)

Working with a host of talented structural engineers on these partnerships are part of what keeps Brown motivated and developing in herself.

“The more experience I gain and projects I complete, the more I want to make the structure part of the space – not hidden away, but a visible part of the building. I enjoy commissioning site-specific artwork, too, and it’s particularly satisfying to see the synergy between an artist’s work and the building.”

Working on Falcon Groups new offices on Lombard Street, as well as the relocation of the Statoil headquarters, are projects that Brown really savoured. “I enjoy the challenge of working with heritage buildings and relish projects that require you to be involved and engaged over a long period.”

“My overriding principle is that buildings are for people, secondly there is context, and the rest is about the brief and filling in the gaps.”

As a female-led business Built-ID are proud to support the female talent in the construction and real estate sectors. In our commitment to this, this blog forms the first in a series of initiatives this month where we will showcase and highlight some of the inspiring female leads and their top projects.


TateHindle – Lombard Street – Click image to see more


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