Women in construction

Today we will be discussing women in construction and how the industry has evolved over the last 20 years, with a special interview with Altaterra partner, Shelley Shipman, from Keepmoat Homes and our very own European Region Manager, Mhairi McDougall.

How many women currently work in the construction industry?

According to planradar, women make up 14% of the construction workforce, with 37% of new entrants in the construction industry being women with higher education accreditations.

The overall number of women has remained fairly unchanged in the past 20 years, but women are continuing to climb the ladder, as blockades and misconceptions around women in the construction industry are rightly removed.

With women joining the industry with higher education accreditations, the future for women in the construction industry is looking stronger than ever.

Improvements made for women in the construction industry

With the number of women joining the industry stagnating over the last 20 years, you might believe that no improvements are being made in the construction industry, but that would be incorrect.

Women are now joining the industry through senior roles across all job types within construction, removing the falsehood of it being an industry that only men can work in.

A great example of this are today’s special guests, Shelley Shipman and Mhairi McDougall.

Mhairi McDougall, European Region Manager

Mhairi McDougall is a European Region Manager for Altaterra.

Mhairi has worked for almost 30 years in the construction industry. Starting at the age of 17 as an Estimator, Mhairi has made her way up the ranks all the way to European Region Manager!

What were the main challenges of getting to where you are now?

I have been fortunate that I have not experienced many negative aspects of being a woman in this industry. I firmly believe that this industry is the best there is and, so long as everyone is given the right level of training, mentoring and support, combined with having the right attitude, work ethic and ambition, that there are lots of opportunities to succeed and grow within this industry; regardless of age or gender. I was given the support and career pathway to progress into branch management responsibilities at 21, I was awarded the National Sales Manager of the Year award within my first year of external sales in my early thirties and I have been promoted into senior management roles across multiple businesses. The opportunity to build a life-long career in this industry is there for anyone who wants it and is willing to work hard to get it. I would recommend the construction industry to everyone who has the ambition, the drive and the determination to develop their career in an exciting and diverse industry such as this one.

How did you get into the construction industry?

I started at the age of 17 as an Estimator, to price up building materials for medium and large-scale building projects. I also worked in internal sales to support the business growth of the branch. The local merchant where I started was an all-female branch, which unfortunately is still unheard of within our industry today.


Shelley Shipman, Group Category Manager

Shelley Shipman is a Group Category Manager for the Doncaster housebuilder, Keepmoat Homes.

Shelley has completed a degree in Quantity Surveying from Nottingham Trent University and has worked her way up from an Assistant Quantity Surveyor.

Can you tell us about your role?

I work as a Category Manager for Keepmoat Homes, working closely with our supply chain to set up and manage group frameworks for direct and indirect materials and services.

One of the categories I manage is roof windows, and I have enjoyed a good, strong working relationship with Altaterra on a group framework for several years now.

Day to day the role is varied and includes liaising with suppliers and internal stakeholders on a wide range of products, carrying out research, undertaking RFQ’s, analysis, negotiation, pricing, completing product proposals, setting up and verifying rebates, and involvement in new product specification. I also regularly visit sites and suppliers, which I find invaluable in understanding products and processes and building relationships.

How did you get into the construction industry?

I completed a degree in Quantity Surveying at Nottingham Trent University and worked for a couple of years as an Assistant QS prior to joining Keepmoat as an Assistant Buyer.

What advice would you give to women who want to join the construction industry?

To go for it, it’s an incredibly satisfying industry to work in, being part of a team and creating tangible outcomes that last for decades to come. I find working in new build housing particularly rewarding, as you are helping to build the most significant investment that most people will make in their lifetime.

I was the only woman on my course at university, and when I first came into the industry around 20 years ago, there were fewer females in senior roles than there are now. It’s great that increasing numbers of women are joining and seeing the benefits of working in the construction industry.

What were the main challenges of getting to where you are now?

I haven’t had any challenges that I would attribute to being construction industry specific, you have to work hard in any industry to achieve success, and I have always found my colleagues and employers to be very supportive.

What personal or professional achievement are you most proud of?

I took time out from the construction industry to have my children, running my own gardening business for 7 years. The thought of coming back into the industry after such a long break was initially a bit daunting, but I’m pleased that I took the opportunity to return, and I am enjoying it more than ever.

Benefits of a diverse workforce

Deeper Understanding of Market

Having a diverse workforce allows you to gain a broader understanding of any industry, especially construction. This means that having a diverse workforce can allow the construction industry to gain an expansive range of skills and experiences, which can then aid in the development of ideas, plans and strategies.

Increase Profitability

One benefit of a diverse workforce can be the increase in profitability for the business as a whole. According to recent research by McKinsey, businesses that are in the top quartile for gender diversity are 25% more likely to have an above-average profitability. Meaning that a diverse workforce can lead to higher profits for any industry, including construction.


Having already touched upon the great benefit of a deeper understanding of the construction market, a diverse workplace can also allow your industry to be more creative in it’s thinking.

Diversity allows people with different backgrounds and experiences to come together and provide solutions and suggestions to the businesses’ daily issues, or tasks.

If you would like to learn more about how women can join the construction industry, be sure to read our article regarding Joanne, the window fitter: more women should join this profession.

Dakea and Altaterra

Dakea and Altaterra will continue to be an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the construction industry by campaigning for women to be given the same opportunities as men. This is why, here at Altaterra, 45% of our workforce is female and spans 10 nationalities.

Interested in trying Dakea? Why not learn more about our installer perks, or contact us today for more information.

Related articles


More women should join this profession

It may be rare to see a female window fitters on site but Joanne Sampson, a new recruit, tells us why more ... read more

Windows two open roof windows

Roof Window Types

Learn the different types of roof window with this guide. read more

Professionals Site manager safety signs

Improving Logistics as a Site Manager

Dakea has 10 actionable tips to improve the logistics of your site as a Site Manager. read more

Join our newsletter!

Are you a professional installer, contractor, or housebuilder? Sign up for our newsletter today to be the first to hear about new products, promotions and exclusive offers.

For all other enquiries please complete our contact form on our website.