Geraldine Tuohy

"The industry is changing and I would encourage any woman to become part of the change towards a more diverse workforce."

ISG: What does a normal day as a senior site manager look like?
Geraldine: A day in my role can always change. It ranges from completing inductions of any new operatives starting on site, to issuing permits and reviewing and signing off RAMs, to checking site security, or monitoring health and safety on site. On some days, I chair meetings with the contractors or I attend design team meetings and client meetings to discuss various coordination or design issues. At the end of each day daily diaries are completed to record labour levels and progress, note weather conditions and record any delays, and at the end of each week, I take the weekly progress photos.

Sounds like you’re incredibly busy. Can you share how you got where you are now?
I studied Interior Architectural Technology and Construction studies, and at the time, I saw myself working in an architectural practice and furthering my knowledge in virtual reality and BIM. My first job was as information manager for a large construction firm, and although I was over qualified, I convinced the director that I was happy to gain some experience in the industry and never looked back. I worked on a large-scale bid, and my role evolved throughout, resulting in me being appointed FF&E Manager for the programme of work. The role ranged from design to procurement, and I worked closely with quantity surveyors. Before joining ISG, I took some time to do something I’d always wanted to do and travelled across Asia for a few months. I then joined ISG as a senior site manager, working on the Pullman Hotel project and manging the FF&E package. Following my maternity leave, I moved onto work on the Matheson House project, where I gained even more experience managing practitioners, ceiling fixers, plasterers, tilers, the IPS contract and of course the FF&E. I’ve now just started on the Liverpool Lime Street project, furthering my expertise.

That’s quite the career path! What are some of the challenges you’ve faced over the years?
I’ve been very lucky to have had great support from my managers, but it was difficult when I started out. Being a young female in a male dominated industry is a challenge, and I felt that I had to work harder than those around me to prove I deserved to be where I was. That being said, I think the attitude towards women has changed in the last ten years. It’s still unusual to find a female on site and there are some who will try and intimidate you, but I’ve learnt to stand my ground and I think I’ve been respected for it. The industry is changing and I would encourage any woman to become part of the change towards a more diverse work force. I hope by becoming a construction ambassador I can influence that change.

Did you have any reservations or concerns about joining the industry as a woman? Have these changed?
My main concern was how I’d be treated on site and if I’d be taken seriously being a woman, but this has gotten easier as time has gone on. You need to set your stall out early and show them that you’re not expecting to be treated any differently for being a woman and that all you need is to be treated with the same respect as anyone else on site. One challenge I do face is finding the right work-life balance. I’m a mum, and working in construction isn’t always a nine to five job. ISG does support flexible working, but more work needs to be done in the industry to encourage this. Flexible hours would encourage more women to look to construction as a career path. Teamwork on site is also incredibly important, and gives all involved on a project a better work-life balance.

What’s been the biggest surprise since joining the construction industry?
The biggest surprise was how tech-led the industry can be. For such a practical industry, it’s great to see how both can work together to help everyone work more efficiently.

And lastly, what are some of the benefits of working in construction?
Every project is different and no day is the same. Each project has its own challenges and something new to get your teeth into. It can also be very rewarding to be part of the regeneration of an area and seeing the reaction from clients and end users when a project has been a success.