Housebuilding staff mark International Women’s Day with company-wide speaker sessions
09 Mar 2021

Staff at a national housebuilder celebrated International Women’s Day with a programme of speaker events highlighting challenges in the industry and opportunities to build on. Leaders in Vistry Group joined external speakers to discuss the need for more women and diversity in the housebuilding industry, to reflect the population and modernise the sector. Vistry board members, regional leaders and external speakers ?" including Nelle Neilson, director of Munich-based fashion brand OSKA; Caroline Logan, programme director at military personnel-focused BuildForce; and former soldier Analise Hopkins ?" attended virtual events throughout the day. Dawnet McLaughlin, managing director of Vistry Southern, has four nieces and said she didn't want them to be held back because they’re female or black. Speaking as part of a panel event called 'From Challenge Comes Change', she said: “International Women’s Day to me is a time to reflect on the success of women, the challenges many women face on a day-to-day basis, improvements there have been and, personally, what difference I’m making to try to champion women.” Katherine Innes Ker, Vistry non-executive director, who took part in the 'Gender Parity and Leadership' panel and the final panel event on ‘change’, said although there had been improvements, people must be called out on behaviour that undermines women. "The housebuilding industry has improved so much over the decades compared to how it was, in terms of opportunities for women, but today and every day is an opportunity to see how much more there is to do,” she said. Debbie Hulme, Vistry group customer experience director, said International Women’s Day was a time to reflect on those who had made sacrifices and to be inspired for the future. Kathryn Pennington, divisional project director for Vistry Partnerships South West, added the speaker sessions were an example of positive action. Vistry held four sessions inviting questions from employees from across the business. Nelle kicked off the morning event, outlining her career journey from being based at the OSKA Cheltenham store to her current director role, and the challenges she has overcome. The first panel event tackled how a more gender equal workplace is beneficial and how leaders can influence this. External speaker Caroline supports a number of ex-service personnel into new careers in construction and Analise highlighted the need to challenge culture that made women feel uncomfortable, both in the armed forces and construction. The second panel event addressed how the industry can challenge more to ensure change is implemented, including through training and education, while attracting more women to the industry by going into schools.

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