Women in Construction

Sue Brown is the Executive Director of Planning & Development at London First. When I first met Sue, I was somewhat intimidated by her impressive career history, her life achievements and her seemingly unshakeable self-confidence. But she quickly made me feel at ease and her energy and demeanour soon instilled inspiration rather than intimidation. I was energised by what she has accomplished and her commitment to London regeneration and the real estate industry as a whole. 

Her particular passion for promoting women in the construction industry across all its facets is contagious and something that is close to my own heart, given my direct influence on placing people into the industry at all levels from Graduates through to Directors. So when I asked her, Sue kindly agreed to record an interview with me around the topical issue of women in construction; the challenges faced and things we can do to promote more women into construction-related professions.

A Londoner through a through, Sue launched her real estate career over 30 years ago working with some key influential figures within the political arena of the 1980s. Challenged by and learning from characters such as Shirley Porter and Reg Ward, she spent a long time working for the LDDC at its peak during the key re-development stages of London's Docklands area. Toughened by this experience, she went on to make a name for herself setting up her own communications business with her husband focused on the built environment. One accolade that real estate professionals can certainly relate to is Sue's achievement in founding MIPIM and more recently, MIPIM UK. She built up her business over the years, enjoying success on a grand scale whilst raising a family at the same time and eventually sold it on. 

Her background within PR & Comms has recently led Sue to the uptake of a new position providing a fresh view on the industry working for London First as the Executive Director of Planning & Development, a role for which she seems perfectly suited given her extensive knowledge and experience over the years promoting London within a development context.

Sue's passion to help redress the balance of gender diversity within real estate was funnelled in 2015 when she became a co-founder of an organisation called 'Rewire' in conjunction with Estates Gazette. Rewire is a cross-industry network for women in the built environment at all levels, to network and support each other and to help those who need to find a voice.

The main advice Sue gives to women working within real estate and construction is quite simply, believe in yourself. Have confidence in your ability and shout about it! One observation she has made over the years as an employer to both men and women is the lack of self-belief and tendency for self-deprecation that so many women seem to demonstrate. She notes that in staff appraisals, men traditionally give themselves 4/5 stars whereas women tend to rate themselves 2s and 3s. This interesting observation underpins her call to action for self-promotion to all professional women.

When looking at what the industry can do to help, Sue highlights the need for employers to recognise the different skill sets that both men and women bring to the table. In acknowledging and accommodating these differences, businesses can capitalise on the wide array of complementary skills that a balanced workforce can bring to the benefit of all.

Lastly, Sue reiterates the importance of the role that men also play in getting behind the promotion of women in the workplace. She explains that, working in such a male dominated industry as construction, it simply cannot be done otherwise without the assistance of high profile male managers. Prominent male figures need to get behind every initiative and scheme that helps advance the rise of women in construction and real estate professions; not only their entry in to the industry in the first place but their promotion to leadership roles and just as importantly, their retention. 

For further insight, you can listen to the full interview with Sue Brown here: