Returning to work as a part-time manager

Gemma Owen talks about how she has returned from maternity leave to her management job at construction firm Vistry on a part-time basis.

female construction workers

 

Gemma Owen is returning to her management role in construction, following a year’s maternity leave and has been able to do so on a part-time basis through her employer Vistry.  The construction firm won this year’s WM People Top Employer Award for Best for Talent Attraction and Outreach.

Gemma, who lives in Southampton, now works three days a week as an assistant site manager at Vistry’s Hounsome Fields location in Basingstoke.

“After I found out I was pregnant, Vistry were great,” says Gemma. “I informed my site manager and then filled in all the forms and chose a date for when my maternity leave was to start. My son was not due until the end of June, but things started to happen sooner than expected so I brought forward my finishing date and he arrived a week later.

“I always wanted to take plenty of time off so I could enjoy quality time with Heron and his dad, but I also knew I wanted to get back to work to resume my career. Towards the end of my year off I had a meeting with Vistry and was able to arrange a part-time return so that I could work on the days when I could get Heron into a nursery.”

She says all her colleagues have been very supportive. “Thanks to all the support I have received I did not have to choose between having a child or having a career – I feel lucky to be able to have both,” she states.

Career progression

Gemma [pictured right] joined Vistry in 2018 as a trainee assistant site manager after two years working as a finishing manager for another building firm.

 “I was basically helping smooth out any ‘snagging’ problems that buyers had after moving into their new homes,” she says. “I got frustrated because I could see that many of the issues could have been avoided by taking action earlier in the process and I decided that by joining a site management team I could make that happen.

“I started at Vistry as a trainee and after just nine months got an NVQ qualification in construction and was promoted to assistant site manager. Although I have been the only woman working on the two sites I have worked at, I don’t feel intimidated or daunted by that situation. I just get on with my job in a professional manner and everyone sees me as an assistant site manager, not as a woman doing a man’s job.”

She adds:  “I know that the building industry has been a traditionally male-dominated workplace, but times and attitudes have changed for the better and more women are entering the business.  I would urge any young women thinking about a career in construction to be bold and apply for that job. I did and I haven’t looked back.

“I can’t wait for the day when Heron starts to play with diggers and trucks and I can say to him: ‘That’s where mummy works – on a building site.’  That will be a proud moment.”

Vistry has created a company-wide Women’s Network, which encourages staff to share experiences – both at face-to-face events and online. Last November it hosted a Women in Planning networking event at its Buckler’s Park development in Crowthorne which Gemma spoke at, outlining the different jobs that are available on site and what they entail.

Alix Laflin, marketing manager for Vistry Thames Valley, said: “Gemma presented a great example of how women can not only have an interesting career in construction, but also have one in which they can thrive and progress.”



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