Empowering women in construction: how childhood intrigue led to a career in design and construction.

We at Pace Interiors are an equal opportunities employer who strives to improve opportunities for all. To help in our mission, we have spoken to our female colleagues to see how they found their way into their role at Pace and why they are in the construction industry, which is notoriously male dominated.

Although many companies are starting to see more women enter the workplace in different sectors, there is still a dramatic difference in the number of women choosing a career path in the construction industry.

This Q&A series will hopefully give a great insight into the women on our team and the work we do at Pace. For our second part to our empowering women series meet our junior CAD Designer Federica, who’s childhood intrigue lead her into design and construction. 

What is your current role/ What let you to working in this career path?

My current role at Pace is junior CAD designer.  

What led me to work in this career path are passion for woodworking, my studies, and my family business. My grandfather and then my uncle were carpenters, and growing up I was always in the shop playing with tools and wood bits and became fascinated by their work. Then the interest in design and materials led me to study industrial design at university in Italy which quickly became a passion of mine. After my studies I then moved to London where I started an internship in product and furniture design, this was my first move into my career in furniture design. During the last seven years, since my career started, I have worked in bespoke joinery CAD design, furniture and manufacturing, furniture upcycling and contract hospitality furniture.

I have really enjoyed roles where I was able to have hands on involvement in a project from start to finish in small companies and workshops. I found that what really captured my interest was during my role where I would upcycle second hand furniture; this captured my imagination similarly to my grandfather’s workshop. 

Can you share the most interesting project you’ve been involved in since you began your career? How were you involved/what did you learn?

Since I started at Pace, a bit more than a year ago, I have been involved in some interesting projects, but as of now only on certain parts of the design that mainly involved door packages. The most challenging aspects of the door packages has been creating door schedules and keeping up to date with reviewing all door specifications which can change between the start and the end of a project. Paying attention to detail, while being able to liaise with all parties involved in the process are skills that I believe I have developed during this process. I have gained knowledge of the components in door construction, the ironmongery that can be used and about the technical properties of fire doors, acoustic doors, and vision panels. I have also learnt how to survey the door openings on site and how to reflect this in the design drawings. Another interesting aspect of learning more about door packages, was being able to experience the manufacturing of doors first hand in the factory. The focus on detail and extending my technical knowledge has been in interesting experience and aspect of my role to learn about. 

What are a few of the biggest obstacles or challenges you’ve had to overcome while working in a male-dominated industry? Do you embrace those challenges?

I haven’t been in the construction industry for long, so I have not found any serious obstacles to overcome. However, I have found that I have adapted the way I work, this may be due to the change in role or sector rather than being due to it being a male dominated industry. I find that I am more thorough in my work, and I am extra careful and pay attention to finer details. Focusing on detail with a high level of diligence can be stressful especially when in a livelier environment.

A small aspect that could be improved is that when I am at site and requiring protective equipment, I often find that work boots, hi-vis vests and gloves are always too big for me and there is a small choice for to have it in my size.

What do you think organisations can do to enhance their recruiting efforts to attract more women into to Cad Design/construction?

Celebrating the achievements of women in the industry is important so that women can see what is possible, while understanding that areas of their sector hard work and success will be recognised regardless of your gender or background. Having more women in leadership roles could also improve recruiting efforts; by creating an environment where women feel included, supported, and valued.  

From my experience at Pace, I have worked closely with another woman in my department, I admire her as she is experienced and, in this field, and she is not afraid of speaking her mind regarding any situation and is confident in her knowledge. I would like to gain the confidence that she displays to face future challenges at work.

Another way to introduce women into the world of construction, would be through programmes for girls to introduce young people to construction at schools. This could invite them to get into construction through design or to work in different roles in the warehouse.

Will you continue to work in Cad design/is this a long-term career path for you or will you explore other sectors?

My plan is to become more experienced in CAD design and move to senior design manager of my own projects in joinery, furniture, or wider construction sector. I like furniture and the bespoke joinery so this is a long-term career path, but I would also like to have a more creative role and I do not want to exclude the possibility to work with diverse materials, like metals, stone, ceramic, etc.

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