Allana Shaw MRICS – A quantity surveyor on breaking down barriers in the workplace

The gender split in the construction industry is one of the biggest in the UK – just 12% of workers are women.

In spite of this Allana Shaw is flying the flag for women in the industry and working her way up as a Quantity Surveyor.

“I would like to see a working world where there is no bias, and people are treated based on their merit and performance, rather than on favouritism.”

How I found work in the construction industry

After working in the public sector for a few years and being overlooked for several promotions I was made redundant. I could say that this was a big knock back, however it is the best thing to happen to me in my career as it enabled an overdue career change. I like to think that any knock back can be turned into a positive by challenging and overcoming it.

In fact it gave me the motivation to apply for a university course that I had put off for a number of years. I graduated one year later with a Masters distinction in Quantity Surveying and was grateful to be offered a role with a global consultant. With their help and training I became a chartered surveyor just over two years later.


I knew the construction industry was rebuilding after the 2008 recession, and there was a demand for quantity surveyors. I have always been fascinated by the built environment and I knew this was one I could achieve my aim of becoming a professional, in a sector that I knew would secure my career through to retirement.


Breaking down barriers in the workplace

Strong communication is important in such a male dominated industry. Engagement from the majority is key. I have witnessed engagement from those who are not minorities who only appear to be interested for their own personal gain. For example, it is important to engage with men to enable them to also break down the barriers of women being a minority in the workplace. At a women’s networking event, the only men that appeared interested and who had an agenda did so because they had daughters – they made the point that they were affected because they had a daughter. While it’s a positive step for them to feel involved, real engagement is required to make a change, not just for them to feel affected. It would be a real shame to think they would not be there if they didn’t have a daughter. We need to engage with all, particularly those who do not turn up to these networking events in order to break down these barriers.


It’s important to explain what it might feel like being in a minority. Sometimes it’s a case of bringing up awareness that it isn’t as easy for those who are in a minority, even in a subtle way.


On a personal level, I would always want to be treated as others would be, no matter what our differences may be. I would not want to be positively discriminated against in any way. I encourage this by also doing the same.


Why #YesSheCan is important in the construction industry

Yes She Can is an opportunity to put females on a pedestal and inspire other women to take the next step and believe in themselves.


It is important to me that women are promoted as equally as men are and that people can see that women are successful and also to promote a network of successful women. Yes She Can is also important to me as it is broadcasting my belief that women can take the next step and achieve their potential by believing in themselves.


Diversity can help organisations so on many different levels. It is important to challenge the status quo, positive change doesn’t happen without this. Diverse organisations more attractive to work for. Having colleagues who are within your diversity group is reassuring and can lead to a better working environment.


If you’re interested in women who work in construction then be sure to check out the inspiring story of Katie Kelleher – the woman who operates the highest crane in the UK.

Connect with Allana on LinkedIn and my professional twitter – @allanashawQS

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