6 women constructing their careers in Kingspan #IWD2018

8 March 2018 Kingspan Group
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This Thursday, communities, organisations and individuals around the world will come together to mark International Women’s Day (IWD). Observed since the early 1900s, this global day is not only about celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, but to use this momentum to spur action. Never has the call to think, act and be gender-inclusive in all settings been so strong within the public discourse, and the determination for change within the construction industry rapidly growing.
 
As part of our IWD celebrations, we spoke to a number of key women within the Kingspan Insulated Panels’ business about their experiences of working in a traditionally male-dominated sector, their inspirations and motivations, and their ideas for the future.

Bianca Wong–Divisional Sustainability Manager

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As Divisional Sustainability Manager, Bianca is responsible for the development and implementation of the Kingspan Insulated Panels’ sustainability strategy and key initiatives, such as the Net Zero Energy programme. She represents Kingspan at global corporate initiative groups, for example, RE100, and her work is fundamental not only to Kingspan’s reputation and commercial viability of its solutions but to the worldwide drive to combat climate change and futureproof our buildings.

What inspired you to take up this role?

“I’ve always had an interest in sustainability and how everything is interconnected. It was a focus in my undergraduate degree in Architectural Technology at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT). When I joined Kingspan in Australia as a Technical Advisor, I became heavily involved in projects relating to sustainability, leading me to my current role and recent completion of my MSc in Energy and Sustainable Building Design at De Montford University, Leicester, England.”

What do you think are the challenges for women in your sector?
Historically, I think a woman working in construction was less accepted than it is today. I do feel like this opinion is changing. Technology and research are evolving how we build, and there are plenty of exciting opportunities for all. My experience overall has been very positive, but as with any role, there are always some challenging moments!

Louise Foody–Director of Digital and Brand at Kingspan Group

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Louise was among Ireland’s Top 25 Most Powerful Women in 2017 by Women’s Executive Network in the Business Leader category. She is both Director of Digital and Brand at Kingspan Group and Board Director at Invicara Software Company, a provider of transformative software solutions for the entire ecosystem of the built environment.

How did you begin your career at Kingspan?
 
“I have been working in the construction sector since I graduated from college.
Growing up I always had an appreciation for well-crafted houses and buildings, and I joined Kingspan on the back of an application to the company’s graduate programme. That application has been my ticket to heading up teams around the world, living in the UK and Canada, implementing global strategies and sitting on the board of an exciting software company.”
 
What are the challenges for women in your sector?
 
Many sectors are, by their very nature, more heavily represented by one gender than the other and it’s not surprising that there is a lack of diversity in the construction industry when compared with other sectors. It is no secret that Boards need more women and, in my experience, this resonates with business leaders. I do fundamentally believe that senior roles for women exist in every industry, and I am proof of it.

Natalia Rizzatti–Chief Financial Officer, Kingspan Latin America

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Natalia is currently the CFO for Kingspan Insulated Panels Latin America division. A key part of this role is to form a close working relationship with the Partners and Executive Teams of the LATAM companies to support on the development and execution of the company strategy while respecting the local cultures and business environments. She guides the Finance Heads of each business unit towards ensuring that there is a robust finance function in line with Group standards to support the achievement of the business targets.
 
 
What was your career path to this role?
 
I have been working in diverse industries since early in life. I ventured to the US in 2010 when I joined All Weather Insulated Panels. The equation family-run plus high growth combined with an innovating product attracted me. I aspired to grow and envisioned myself adding value to the company, helping to scale the business while maintaining sustainable profits. When Kingspan acquired All Weather, it brought new challenges to table which I embraced as I continued to learn about the industry and evolve as a leader in the organization. Last year, I completed my Executive MBA at around the same time Kingspan completed acquisitions in South America. My background and experience aligned with the needs of this new geographic expansion which lead to my current role of CFO LATAM.
 
 
What are the current challenges for women in your sector?
In over ten years as part of the construction industry, I’ve seen few women in leadership roles. It has always intrigued me how much of that is due to the lack of opportunity versus lack of potential awareness. It is critical to be an expert at what you do but also being curious to learn different areas of business, and keeping an open mind help increase the potential awareness and by default help overcome inequality challenges. I strongly believe you have to surround yourself with great teams and mentors to expand viewpoints as you are shaping your career. As in any other industry, if you are passionate about what you do, work hard, and is willing to take risks, I trust good things come along.

Karen Connolly–R&D Project Engineer

Karen Connolly
As a Research and Development Project Engineer, Karen works to develop and
enhance products within the Kingspan Insulated Panels range to ensure they meet industry standards and are fit for purpose. She takes projects from conceptual design stage, right through to testing and certification, and finally product launch. Karen’s role enables her to interact with a number of different departments across the Kingspan Group.
 
How did you become a R&D Project Engineer?
 
“I graduated with a Master’s in Energy and Building Services Engineering from Ulster University in 2015. I decided to apply for the Kingspan graduate programme as I was impressed with the previous graduate profiles and the opportunities which the company offered its graduates for career progression and travel. I started as a design engineer for the Energy division.”
 
What are the challenges for women in your sector?
The main challenge for women within the construction industry is the lack of presence in senior positions: just 13% of the total workforce within the construction industry is made up of women and a small percentage are in senior positions. Since graduating I have always worked within the construction industry and am fortunate to never have experienced gender inequality within the workplace–in my experience, if you work hard you will be treated with the same respect which you treat others.

Dr Dawn Thompson– Chemical Research Engineer

Dawn Thompson
Dawn’s role is integral to keeping Kingspan at the forefront of its industry. Combining both research and development to find alternative process chemicals and technologies, her work enables Kingspan to continually produce the innovative and sustainable products Kingspan are renown for.
 
What was your career path to this role and what inspired you to go for it?
 
“I graduated from Queen’s University in Belfast with a PhD in Chemical Engineering, which focused on using nanomaterials to improve the thermal conductivity of energy storage systems. Prior to this, I completed a Masters in Chemical Engineering at the same university. I was inspired to go to university and study chemical engineering through guidance from my GCSE chemistry teacher. I loved science, especially chemistry and maths, and by talking to my teacher one day after class about a career involving both subjects, she pointed me in the direction of chemical engineering. After a Google search and lots of reading, I knew I had found my dream degree and I had to be a chemical engineer.
 
What are the challenges for women in your sector?
According to the Fortune 1000, there are approximately 54 female CEOs out of 1000 in the US. We need this culture to shift. We need to inspire future professionals to pursue their careers, help them believe in themselves and encourage them to strive for the highest positions possible regardless of their gender. I think sometimes we as women can be our own worst enemy in that we set ourselves such high standards and underestimate our own abilities.
 
The team I work with have been nothing but supportive since I have started Kingspan and I am so grateful for all the help and support I have received not just in my team but across the entire Kingspan Group.

Marie Maguire–Group People and Leadership Development Manager for Kingspan Group

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Reporting to the Group CEO, Marie is responsible for the identification and development of leadership talent and succession planning across the Kingspan Group, from graduates to senior executives. Her role sees her interact with people from all walks of life, giving her a unique perspective on the people that make up Kingspan.
 
What was your career path to this role?
 
“I worked in London in the U.K. Head Office of the DHL Group as a sales and marketing executive, before moving to Paris to manage the start-up of a new DHL subsidiary in France. This involved me recruiting and building teams. I then moved to Dublin and became a founder shareholder in an international executive search firm. This is when I first came into contact with Kingspan, when they needed to recruit senior executives for their expanding global business. I then spent five years working as a Director in PwC’s People and Organisation practice where I gained experience in talent management and development. I joined Kingspan Group in August 2016, after they had been my client for 17 years and had created this new role at Group level.”
 
What are the challenges for women in your sector?
I have only worked directly in the sector for 19 months and perhaps I am a bit more protected in a corporate role than out in the field but, in my opinion, the construction sector has not been seen as an attractive as a career option for women and has few role models in leadership positions.
For more information about each of these Kingspan employees including their thoughts on what the industry needs to do to change for better gender balance, their inspirations and motivations as well as their existing role models, please click here.
 

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