Who are Britain’s most pioneering women in the construction, property and architectural sectors? The shortlist for the First Women of the Built Environment award, run in association with construction industry software provider COINS features pioneering leaders who are opening new market opportunities; campaigning for women or simply leading dramatic commercial growth. Here’s the full shortlist:Katrina Downing is used to blazing trails in the construction sector. When she joined her quantity surveying course in 1989, she was one of only two women in a class of 65; she was the only woman to complete. Today, as operations director, she is one of the most senior female directors of the £1.2bn Skanska UK, having worked on some of the first UK private finance initiatives (PFIs). For the past six years, as chair of the National Association of Women in Construction, she has championed women in her sector. She led the strategic formulation of Skanska UK’s 2015 business plan and is described by Martin Neeson, MD of Skanska Facilities Services as “a champion for good business ethics.” Starting her career as a sales rep, Keeley Downing has, in the words of Crown’s group MD Matthew Greensmith, “identified, pioneered and developed a new business opportunity – multi-utility services – creating a new business from scratch.” Crown’s business is historically in fuel distribution, though it has diversified more recently into energy and utilities. Keeley’s business brainwave is best summarised as “one trench, three pipes” (gas, electricity and water), which enables contractors to install three utilities in a single process, dramatically reducing cost and management overhead. Today joint managing director of Crown Utilities, the business units under Keeley’s responsibility have grown to a forecast £7m in 2012. In its 110-year history, Diane Johnson is the first female president of the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), the trade body that represents 3,000 UK electrical contracting businesses in a sector worth £17bn (and of which women make up only one per cent of the industry). Diane has campaigned tirelessly to raise the profile of vocational training and, during her ECA presidency, created Wired for Success, an initiative bringing together like-minded organisations to break down barriers preventing women entering the industry – critical at a time when a record 1.1m women are out of work. A former top triathlete and Sandhurst-trained army officer, Amanda Fisher is managing director of Balfour Beatty Workplace Corporate Services, responsible for delivering £250m-worth of annual facilities management services to the public and private sectors. She is one of the five most senior women in the Balfour Beatty Group and, through her achievements, has created an environment that ensures many more will follow in her footsteps. She describes herself as fearless in “taking people on”. She says: “in the military, you don’t go into meltdown when the chips are down; you regroup, bring in reinforcements and then advance.” It’s an outlook that’s served her well in business, too. Julie White started her career a professional yachtswoman, and has circumnavigated the world several times. She returned to the UK, where she joined her father’s drilling business. She spotted new technology in diamond concrete grinding and her business D-Drill the first to apply the new technology commercially in the UK. After leading an MBO to acquire the business, she became the first woman to be elected to the board of the UK Drilling and Sawing Association, and the only woman on the world association board. Julie is an enthusiastic supporter of apprenticeships; 45% of her own workforce has been through a scheme. And in 2012 she became the first woman to enter the “Cutting-Pro” competition for the 12 best drillers in the UK. Winners of the First Women Awards 2012 will be announced at an amazing awards ceremony on June 28, 2012 at the Grand Connaught Rooms, hosted by BBC presenter Clare Balding. First Women Awards supporters include: BAE Systems, Benenden Healthcare Society, Centrica, COINS, Harvey Nash, ICAEW, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Land Rover and the Financial Mail.
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