When we talk about gender diversity in construction, it is easy to focus solely on the distinct lack of female workers. Understandably so, with women still only making up approximately 20% of the UK
and 5.5% of the Irish construction workforces
. However, it is also important to hear the voices of those who have worked in the industry for a long time, and have seen and experienced first-hand the various changes in attitude and perception around gender equality that have taken place over the past few years.
We sat down with Jane Jones, who heads up our customer service and quotations teams in the UK and Ireland, to find out more about her career path to this role and her experiences within the industry.
Jane Jones – UK & Ireland Customer Service Manager & UK Quotations Manager
What was your career path into your current role and what inspired you to go for it?
After college I was looking for a challenge. The role within Kingspan came up when I was 19. They were looking for someone who was driven and multiskilled as they were looking to move their factory and office from the West Midlands to Holywell North Wales. I thought this would be a good role in which to see something build and grow from the beginning and for me to grow with it. I started off as the go to person for all aspects of the business while the office set up evolved, gradually building more staff and expanding skills.
I moved from general ‘go to’ in reception into a customer services role where we dealt with our central customer base. We were the hub and main point of contact for our customers from initial quotation, through to order processing, detailing, liaising with production and then delivery. Our customers came to us first, if they had any questions, we were their central contact and this is where we built our relationships and formed confidence with our customers base.
It was hugely satisfying seeing something through from initial conversation and winning that order to having the product delivered on site; to grow those initial relationships and bonds, through the end to end process. As we grew, the roles split into separate, focused, departments such as quotations, customer service, detailing etc. I remained within customer services looking after a north west area and customer base for 6 years. Then, looking for a new challenge, I moved into the commercial side within KIP quotations where I remained for the next 15 years. Within this challenging role, I started as team leader, moving up to manager within a few years as we shaped and grew the team, which was fast paced and vital to continued growth of the business as the demand for quick quotation turnaround and reduced lead times meant we had to perform to high standards within tight KPI turnaround time.
In 2015, a new challenge presented itself when the long serving customer services manager for Holywell, Sherburn and Ireland emigrated to Australia, leaving a potential new challenge for which I was ready. In January 2015, I took on the role of customer services manager for UK and Ireland covering the three plants as per my predecessor, as well as keeping my commercial role as head of KIP quotations, thereby merging the teams and ensuring each works collaboratively under the one goal. Bringing all three plants together to standardise customer services in the way we work was something I was excited to tackle. We also continue to look at the processes and the ways we service our customers, ensuring a consistent and enjoyable customer journey with Kingspan through both customer service and our pricing teams.
Kingspan has been built on the relationships formed over the years. The loyalty of our customer base is key and valuable to us. We need to ensure that no matter how big we grow, that we still keep that one to one personal contact and family feel to the journey of our customer.
How has the position of women changed within construction over your time/understanding?
The position of women has changed dramatically over the years – when I first started it was very much an industry that was male dominated. At times, in the early days this was shown in the lack of confidence individuals conveyed at dealing with a woman, often asking for a second opinion before what was being said was accepted as correct. I feel women had to fight harder to be taken seriously and worked harder to prove they were knowledgeable and capable. I have always enjoyed a challenge and myself and other ladies within the office at this time took this challenge to change perspectives within the industry. It has changed over the years as you see more and more women in the workplace whether on construction sites, on the road and in the offices taking more senior roles in a variety of areas, adding value and quality and diversity into the sector. Although I feel, certainly within Kingspan, we are employing more women and promoting them into important senior and executive roles, if you look at the statistics, we still only represent 10 – 13% in the workforce generally within the industry.
What advantages would gender equality bring to the industry?
Equality and diversity within the business offers a greater range of perspectives and insights. Making this a place where women can grow and offer a career will bring in a wider pool of talent. It will also help in staff retention and a place where people want to be. It offers work life balance as the workload and financials are shared between partners. Equality offers a challenging and satisfying career for women as well as men, women are highly ambitious and seek to prove themselves within the workplace alongside others.
What advice would you give to a woman looking to start a career in your industry?
If you are passionate that this is the industry you want to work in, then be determined and push yourself to work hard and persevere.
Who inspires you?
All people who are driven and who push themselves.