Suzannah is the Chief Executive of Build UK, the leading representative organisation for the UK construction industry.
Inspired by a site visit during a week’s work experience, she achieved a degree in Construction Management before starting her career as a site engineer. She then qualified as a health and safety professional before taking over the reins at the National Specialist Contractors’ Council. After 13 years leading the specialist sector, Suzannah was the driving force behind the merger to form Build UK in 2016, bringing the industry together within one organisation. Under her leadership, Build UK is at the forefront of improving business performance, increasing productivity and recruiting, training and retaining talent across the industry.
By benchmarking payment terms Build UK has improved payment days across the sector and it introduced the Common Assessment Standard to improve the process of pre-qualification saving the industry up to £1 billion each year. Build UK played a significant role during Covid by publishing Site Operating Procedures which kept the industry open throughout every lockdown.
A passionate advocate for construction, Suzannah is recognised and respected for her work with government, media and key industry stakeholders. She was awarded an MBE in 2005, was one of the first Timewise Power Part-Timers, is a member of the Construction Leadership Council the Women’s Business Council, the new Building Advisory Committee that advises the Building Safety Regulator. She is also a non-executive director of CSCS Ltd and B&CE Holdings Ltd.
Why would you encourage women to consider a career in construction?
There is such a range of roles across the industry you can do pretty much anything from being on the front line of a construction site to negotiating with clients, managing wellbeing to developing a website – all in a dynamic and exciting environment that is extremely rewarding as you are part of creating the built environment in which we all live and work.
What is your experience of the construction industry as a woman?
My personal experience has been great, and I love working in construction. I have had several very different roles and there have been so many opportunities along the way - I could have pursued any number of careers. It can be a ‘tough’ environment and it is certainly hard work but the industry is also made of up some really good people who have gone out of their way to help and support me along the way.
What would you suggest employers in the construction industry can do to encourage more women into the businesses?
There are several ways to encourage more women into the industry, but here are a few things that I feel would make all the difference.
One, I would say be open to flexible working. That doesn't just mean part-time or working from home – it means looking at what would suit all parties that would enable a great employee to manage their work, and out-of-work, responsibilities.
Two, create a fair working environment, this means the basics such as making sure there is equal pay and benefits, having honest conversations on performance along with support and equal training so that women can do things differently and develop.
Even down to ensuring that social events like Golf Days, rounds at the pub, and black tie events are not required for important conversations, promotions and are the only opportunities for information and support. By the very nature of these environments, it can put women at an unfair disadvantage.
Three, provide suitable PPE and facilities for women. One of the simplest to achieve (and for some reason still an issue…). Many employers still provide men’s small PPE, which is ill-fitting, uncomfortable, and can make it difficult to do your job and there are often no suitable women’s facilities on site. These are very basic requirements and it is unbelievable that we are still having to talk about them.
Women can be incredibly strong and resilient but most of us do not perform at our best in an unequal and draining environment. Neither do men, but they often stay and suffer – women will just leave–taking all the good things they bring to the workplace, including increased profitability, with them.
Citrus Training became a member of Build UK in 2021 and since then we have worked closely with the organisation to look at and find ways to improve the provision of training in the construction sector, supporting recruitment and retention of talent.