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Women in Property: Work it Out

12 Jul 2022

<p>Efforts to improve representation in property and construction are  gaining ground thanks in no small part to the work of organisations such  as women in property. Urban Realm caught up with tomorrow&rsquo;s leading  ladies at a student awards reception to see what the future holds.</p>

Efforts to improve representation in property and construction are gaining ground thanks in no small part to the work of organisations such as women in property. Urban Realm caught up with tomorrow’s leading ladies at a student awards reception to see what the future holds.

The end of lockdown has seen a gradual drift back to the office but what is the situation for those actively seeking employment? In many ways the past two years have been a distraction from underlying structural issues including skills, housing and the climate crisis; a triple whammy, exacerbated by social distancing. Fortunately, one organisation is tackling all of these crises by solving another, gender inequality.

Women in Property organises a national student awards programme designed to serve as a conduit between academia and industry to ensure that the right skills are matched with the right employers upon graduation. This year nineteen 3rd year students from across Scotland were nominated by their universities to present a piece of coursework to a panel of judges.

Leanne Hill, chair of Women in Property Northern Scotland said: “We seek out the brightest and best students studying on built environment degree courses, asking them to present coursework to us, so they have the experience of an interview in front of industry professionals. Employers then get to meet them at the awards event, ahead of the competition, when we announce our regional winners. It works well for everyone.”

Tallulah Bannerman, studying architecture at the University of Edinburgh and Eilidh McGuigan, studying architectural studies at the University of Strathclyde, will represent Central Scotland at the national awards. Lilyana Mladenova, studying civil & environmental engineering at Abertay University, is the sole Northern Scotland winner. All three will head to London on 20 September when they will go head to head with 11 other finalists to claim the UK crown at a best of the best dinner in Claridge’s.

Urban Realm attended a reception held in honour of the Central Scotland cohort of nominees to find out how attitudes to work, study and gender have been informed by events and what this means for the future direction of travel for the next generation of architects, engineers and interior designers.

Mari Helland, MA Architecture (architectural theory), University of Edinburgh, just missed out on a win after being highly commended by the judging panel. She told Urban Realm: “Mingling at events is foreign to us because we didn’t get that through our studies. It’s daunting for students; many are from international backgrounds stepping into an industry they know little about. Women in Property demystify it.
“We’ve seen a change in how the university operates, it’s more digitally focused and flexible. I’ve become more socially minded in what I want to work with because we got to experience how it was when that choice was taken away from us. We’ve probably been more shaped by these times we’ve lived through than we realise.

“Being back in the studio now is strange and being among people a year above me, who have had more practical experience, I can see how certain competencies are more advanced but then we have different competencies in digital modelling and research.
“We’re facing different challenges to those our parents faced when they entered the workforce. It’s a very heavy future we have ahead but design is an optimistic profession because it focuses on problem-solving, you are aware of the problems but you’re forced to come up with solutions. That makes me love this work even more.”

Laura McConville, BA honours interior design, Edinburgh College of Art, added: “We’re lucky that a lot of interior architecture is computer-based. “I have always been artistic and mathematical, so interior design is a perfect mix. I get to work on the calculations as well as creativity and design. I had my mind set on it when I was 16 and then came to Edinburgh and loved it straight away. I think Scotland is ahead compared to the UK.”

Yoanna-Rosa Dimitrova, MEng civil engineering with architecture, University of Glasgow: “It’s a great opportunity to meet professionals, they give you advice and tips. Most people are pushing for equality but I do civil engineering with architecture and out of 80 people, there are only 20 girls. In other engineering degrees, there are even fewer girls. “I was interested in mathematics and drawing, which led to architecture. Engineering and architecture provide a good balance between maths and drawing skills.”

Kate McMahon, civil and environmental engineering, University of Strathclyde: “It’s a great opportunity to meet people who understand the challenges we face and help us through. I’ve been online but I’m not going to lie, I loved it! You can make your lunch and do your laundry. I find at uni there is a lot of wasted time, there’s a lot of hours between things that I can now fill with useful things!”

Shona McCrea, BEng (Hons) civil engineering, the University of the West of Scotland: “It’s been hard moving online. I’m an apprentice so I’m only at university one day a week so it’s not had as great an effect on me because a lot of my learning comes from work when I’m on site. I’ve not stopped because I’ve been a key worker.”

“Our exams have moved online and I’ve enjoyed that because it is more of a real-world application. You wouldn’t be sitting in a hall doing all your calculations, you would have people about you rather than panicking on your own.”

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