Celebrating our Women in Construction

To mark the 25th annual Women in Construction week (5 – 11 March), we’re celebrating all the brilliant roles and opportunities available to women in the construction industry.


6 Mar 2023

We’re proud to offer a variety of roles and training programmes to females at all stages of their careers, both on-site and in-office positions. Whether it’s working in areas such as development, repairs or investment, we have roles to suit all interests.

This year's theme, 'Many Paths, One Mission', celebrates the different journeys women have taken toward the same goal: strengthening and amplifying the success of women in the construction industry.

So, this week we are running a social media campaign on Linked In championing the brilliant women at Thirteen by joining the global campaign to make change happen.

We'd also like to encourage you to share our social media posts and support the campaign.

Read more about some of the brilliant women at Thirteen below:

Assistant development project manager Rhiannon Brackenbury

Rhiannon Brackenbury is Thirteen's assistant project manager for North Yorkshire.

Rhiannon joined Thirteen in October 2022, and before then, she was a lifecycle manager and then an estates manager at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate.

She said: "While working at the college, I had the opportunity to work on several MOD projects including in 2020 when I was involved in designing and project managing a COVID village and outside gym to allow physical training to continue. For this, my work was recognised in the new year’s honours list, which was amazing. 

"I love working in the construction industry. Since joining Thirteen, I have gained so much knowledge and experience by being on-site and seeing things first-hand with the team's other project managers and colleagues. Thirteen is a great place to work and develop your skills, and they've even given me the opportunity to study for an HNC!

"I feel strongly that women have an important role to play in the construction industry. Gone are the days when it was a male-dominant career. Women have the skills and drive to make construction a promising career for themselves and the industry alike.

"I'd definitely like to see more women visible on sites and in the construction sector as it encourages the future generation to want to learn, train and build a career in a fantastic industry."

Partnership administrator Claire Proud

Partnership administrator Claire Proud completed an apprenticeship at 18 and worked in recruitment for many years.

After gaining many qualifications in business, leadership and management Claire saw a great opportunity to work at Thirteen.

She said: “I admired the work that Thirteen does for communities, so when I was successful in applying for a job in 2018, I was delighted. The opportunity allowed me to be flexible around childcare, which was a perfect balance, and it’s given me the chance to increase my hours over the years.

“The construction industry offers so many options for growth and development. I’m constantly learning every day. I get the opportunity to go to sites and meet customers, so it’s very different to previous administrator roles. I’m very much part of the team.

“I’m also studying the level 2 retrofit course which is helping me gain knowledge for our retrofit schemes that we have in the Hartlepool and Stockton.

“If you are considering a career in construction then I would 100% go for it. The experiences I’ve gained are different to any other role. I’ve met so many people from being involved in the investment projects and it’s a great feeling to play a part in improving peoples’ homes.”

Development operations senior support Levi Symmonds

Levi Symmonds joined Thirteen in 2021 as a construction contracts coordinator before moving into her current role in the development team as operations senior support. During this time, she's also completing an HNC in Building Studies, which she feels is invaluable in helping her develop in her role!

Levi said: "There are so many elements to this role. It offers a lot of variety, and it's given me a lot of opportunities to experience working alongside different teams. I also work in a fantastic team which helps!

"It's incredibly rewarding. I've learnt so much about the construction industry and feel like I've been allowed to thrive.

"I'm passionate about seeing more women joining the construction industry, and there are so many opportunities that exist in the sector. Whether it's working in our land, technical or commercial teams, being customer-facing in sales or building new homes as a project manager, Thirteen has roles available to suit all interests."

Project coordinator Amy Payne

Project coordinator Amy Payne started her career as an apprentice scheduler in the repairs team. The role developed and Amy worked in two part time roles - as a scheduler and as a housing assistant. This experience gave Amy the insight and confidence to speak to customers.

Now age 31, Amy said: “I loved working as a scheduler, but when there was an opportunity for a trainee project coordinator, I decided to push myself. I completed a HNC in building studies and successfully became project coordinator.

“I didn’t initially start my career wanting to work in construction, and to be honest I was nervous about it. But after gaining technical knowledge and getting out of my comfort zone on site, I really enjoyed it.

“My favourite part of the job is building positive relationships with customers and stakeholders. Overcoming the challenges, working as a team and seeing the end result and our customers getting excited about the work is so worthwhile.

“My advice to anyone setting out in a career in construction is – be yourself, be confident and just go for it!”

Executive director of development Joy Whinnerah

Joy joined Thirteen in February 2022 as executive director of development.  
Having been at Thirteen for just over a year, Joy is enjoying shaping and growing Thirteen ambitious development programme. 
She said: "I've worked in the construction industry for many years and have always been very passionate about encouraging more women to join the sector.  
“For me, working in construction has definitely broadened my opportunities and experiences. It has taken me on a career path that is challenging and highly rewarding. It allows me to work on and deliver real tangible bricks-and-mortar outcomes. It's incredible to watch your project move from the design stage to the on-site delivery stage and experience all the different on-site considerations you could never imagine when looking at the design on a screen. It means you never have to worry about being bored! 
"Thirteen offers the opportunity to make those challenges absolutely worthwhile as the bricks become not just a home for a family but also a permanent placemaking feature in that community, a statement about our commitment to our customers and stakeholders and good quality homes and places for our communities and us to be proud of. 
"To women looking to join the industry, I would tell them there are some fantastic opportunities in construction and there are lots of routes in. Through apprenticeships, and hands-on training courses, or lots of people have transferable skills like project management, which is another way to get involved.”

Head of repairs Steph Lawlor

Head of repairs Steph Lawlor will soon be reaching a significant milestone in her career - with 20 years’ service at Thirteen. 

A career in construction wasn’t Steph’s plan, but while studying to be a PE teacher, work experience at Thirteen led to a part time job with the repairs team. Steph soon realised her passion for making a difference for the customers and loved the work environment.

Playing sport has contributed to the leader she is today.   

Now aged 37, Steph said: “I remember it was scary swapping my planned career for a career in building. I began to study as much as I could, from a HNC in building, to health and safety. There was so much to learn.

“I took roles in repairs, investment customer liaison, project management to repairs manager and head of repairs.” 

It was Steph’s dad’s career that brought about the interest in repairs and maintenance, while her mam had a career as a nurse.  

Steph continued: “My dad’s career as a repairs manager wasn’t seen as a typical career choice for a woman, but following in his footsteps was the best decision I could have made.  

“I love the team I work in and the difference we make for our customers, and I have many fond memories from over the years.  

“I have one of the largest teams to manage in the organisation, with hundreds of trade operatives, who all work incredibly hard.  

“We’ve faced many challenges together. Every day is different and while we can’t always plan for everything, as a team we rise to every challenge.  

“My advice to women thinking about a career in construction would be to give it a go, if it’s something you want to do.  

“The male colleagues who I have worked alongside have been so supportive and have helped me throughout my career.  

“Once you’ve made the first step, you’ll never look back.” 

Partnership administrator Olivia Shiel 

After working in the legal sector since she was 16, Olivia joined Thirteen, just six months ago. She’s been made to feel so welcome; she feels like she’s been a part of the team for years!  

Keen to learn, Olivia is already studying for the level 2 award in domestic retrofit to further her knowledge and contribute to Thirteen’s commitment to the retrofit and net zero agenda. 

At 23, Olivia said she just fancied a change and is so glad to have taken the leap!  

She said: “There are so many opportunities within construction and my role allows me to learn a variety of skills, work in different places, meet lots of people within the business and with our partners. 

“I love seeing the difference that our investment work makes to peoples’ lives. By providing good quality affordable and safe homes, that people can be proud of, and being able to contribute to the improvement of someone’s quality of life is incredibly rewarding. 

“I would encourage any woman to pursue a career in construction. The sector is full of passionate, supportive women who look out for one another and if you find a team like I have, you won’t regret it. I am privileged to have had the opportunities that I have had so early in my career at Thirteen.” 

Repairs team leader Jade Featherstone  

Repairs team leader Jade Featherstone started her career as an apprentice joiner. It was an easy decision for Jade to follow in the footsteps of her dad and grandad.  

After around 16 years working as a joiner, and almost eight of those at Thirteen, Jade said: “I knew exactly the career I wanted when I was 14. I was inspired by my dad’s career – I wanted to be just like him. 

“People are often surprised to see a woman trade operative arrive at their home. But I’ve always felt proud of my profession, and I’d prove people wrong. Many female customers have told me that they wish they could have done this as a job.” 

Last year Jade took an opportunity too good to miss and applied for the role as team leader. Now age 31, Jade’s managing a team of 32 trade operatives.  

“I thought I was too young, but the team saw my potential, I did job shadowing to learn as much as I possibly could, then applied for a position. I’ve been given support, a chance to keep learning and I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone to get where I am today.  

“The best thing about my role is interacting with the operatives, knowing that I’m supporting them to complete the jobs for customers.  

“There’s still stigma that women won’t fit in, but I haven’t found this through my career. It’s a fantastic career choice, there’s a skills shortage and so many opportunities out there.  

“For me it’s inspirational that there are so many managers in our repairs service who are women. To anyone thinking of a career as a trade operative and in the construction industry, my advice would be; don’t be afraid of it being a man’s world. It’s an amazing community and you’ll always feel part of a team.” 

Trainee quantity surveyor Shannon Lyden  

Trainee quantity surveyor Shannon Lyden started her career at Thirteen back in 2018 as an apprentice in the new homes delivery team. That's where Shannon's passion for construction first took hold. A year later, Shannon was thrilled to be appointed as an administrator in the development team, dealing with all aspects of construction, from land procurement to defects in new builds. This fuelled her interest in the industry even more, and in April 2022, she secured a trainee quantity surveyor role in the development team, and she hasn't looked back.  
Shannon said: "I think women in construction are vital in this day and age as it reduces the stigma that just men work in construction. More women in these roles inspire younger women to get involved in construction. Seeing successful women working in the industry has definitely given me the confidence to advance in my career. It would be nice to be a role model for other girls/women to get involved, as there are never-ending opportunities in the industry. 
"What I love about my role is that it's so varied. I'm constantly learning about the construction industry, and it's a fantastic opportunity to study for an HNC in construction while working. 
"Thirteen has helped me massively to get where I am today and set me on a career path that I love, and I would recommend this route to anyone!" 

Assistant development project manager Amy McCreesh 

The next colleague to feature as part of our Women in Construction campaign is Amy McCreesh.

Amy joined Thirteen in 2021 as a customer care coordinator. The following year Amy joined the development team as an assistant project manager and has embraced the challenge.
She said: "I think women remain massively underrepresented in the construction sector. If we hope to overcome the skills shortage faced by the UK's industry, it will become ever more crucial to encourage women to choose a career in construction. 
"It's also more important than ever that we have visible women role models in the industry. If more women held senior roles in the sector, it would encourage the younger generation to consider construction as an option in the future. By attracting more women into all construction areas, the industry will be stronger, more productive and (dare I say it!) more organised. 
"Coming from a customer care background, Thirteen have helped me progress massively as an assistant project manager, with the help of putting me through an HNC and many other relevant courses for my role. I have gained a lot of knowledge, skill, and experience through being out on-site and seeing things first-hand. 
"My advice to anyone thinking about a career in construction is to go for it - for me being on a live site and seeing a scheme evolve and come together is fantastic, and I believe it's a great place for women to be." 

Partnership project manager Claire Atkinson

As part of Women in Construction week we are highlighting some of the many amazing women who work at Thirteen.

The first is Thirteen’s partnership project manager Claire Atkinson. Claire joined the organisation in 2011 as an administrative assistant within the investment team.

After a couple of years of learning the processes, attending meetings and hearing about projects she applied for a coordinator, role which involved working in investment schemes, with customers and contractors to manage projects. Within 10 years in this role, Claire had a fantastic opportunity to develop, studying part time for a HNC in building studies and taking time away on maternity leave with her two children.

Claire decided in 2021 the time was right to look at the next steps of her career, and successfully gained the role of partnership project manager – managing multi-million pound home investment projects. 

Now 35, Claire said: “Construction wasn’t something I initially set out to get into, but when I gained an insight into investment projects, it gave me that inside knowledge and my interest began to grow. I’ve always loved planning and being organised and these are key skills for any project manager.

“My role is so varied. Every project comes with new learning and challenges, which I can apply to future projects. Walking away from completed projects knowing you have improved someone’s home is a lovely feeling.

“My advice to any other women thinking about a career in construction, is to just take every opportunity - it’s a huge industry and offers so many roles and an endless amount of chances to learn.”

Read more about Women in Construction here.