[Euston, London, 03.08.2017] [Janet Lees, Associate Director and Architect at mba was shortlisted by the London Construction Awards for Women in Construction ]

[“I will always strive to be recognised for my skill as an architect. Being a woman should not come into the equation”]

[We believe Janet Lees, Associate Director at MBA, should win the award. Janet has shown that women can be an enormous asset to the construction industry through her role as a chartered architect at the practice. She is a positive role model for other women in the construction industry, from working on site, directing construction, training the next generation of architects, and serving clients.

Working as a female chartered architect, in what is a male dominated industry, is a challenging role. Often, women work harder, putting in longer hours than their male counterparts to be treated equally. This process of overcompensating is both ridiculous and unfair but has been necessary over the years for women to make it to senior positions (and sometimes not so senior positions). MBA is a young practice with a well-balanced working environment. Whilst considering where to work when relocating 3 years ago, the equal representation of gender amongst the technical team was one of the reasons Janet Lees applied for a role with MBA.

Janet joined the practice in 2014 as an architect and was soon promoted to Team Leader, and now Associate Director. This is evidence of her hard work ethic and strong skill set. She is in quite a unique position whereby she works in a practice where gender is not an issue. The MBA technical team is 55% male, 45% female, with women making up 40% of our management team. Even within the administrative team, MBA is gender equal, another industry anomaly.

During her time with MBA, Janet has taken on running teams, and mentoring team members through their qualification process as upcoming architects. She has also been heavily involved on site, learning first hand from those around her, and bringing to the table practical solutions for a challenging site: Park Road, a developer led scheme worth £1.4m. The site lies within one of the Chiswick conservation areas on a prominent corner plot. With Chiswick High Street and Chiswick House within walking distance, the six, high quality units enjoy private terrace space and parking. The site is a challenge due to its location and has proven difficult for the contractor. MBA’s team, led by Janet, has been instrumental in finding innovative construction solutions to deal with the tight constraints and ensure quality is kept high.

Careful consideration has been made to services and ventilation to deal with the local road noise, while still offering a high-quality living environment. Architect led construction was something MBA wanted to trial alongside one of their developer clients to ensure a high quality of build and finish. Janet’s expertise made her perfect for the role. Being based on site was a challenging task that has given her a breadth of knowledge that has been invaluable to her.

Janet is aware lots of other women work on site and, given her experience, Janet said, “this is commendable given the challenging environment in which they work”. For example, disputes between sub-contractors about responsibility for damages to a neighbouring property were quickly resolved by Janet, through listening to all parties, empathising and suggesting ways to resolve the damage quickly and easily. Negotiating to get all parties involved to assist with the repairs and including personally cleaning the windows of the next-door property as a gesture of goodwill. This personable approach encapsulates Janet’s style of architect led construction.

Similarly, lots of women are now successful architects, so what made her challenge different? Bridging the gap between the contractor and the architect which can often be a confrontational relationship where, without careful direction, either party may feel that they are not getting the best out of the situation. Lots of women are doing one or the other but rarely, if ever, both. Being based on site allowed a rapport to develop between the contractors and Janet that would otherwise not exist, and which led to everyone working together as a team, finding the best solution, and delivering it quickly so people weren’t downing tools on site. Janet’s skills bridged the gap between contractor, both men and women. Bringing this experience back into the practice, and to the other women in the team, has demonstrated a level of commitment and passion from Janet in her work that they have never experienced. This demonstrates that women can be and are instrumental in the construction industry and furthermore demonstrating equality between the sexes.

From another perspective, it is worth considering if male dominated industries are missing out. At MBA we find that having a mixed gender team working on a project directly relates to our residential client base; a high percentage of whom are mixed sex couples. Whilst designing your own home is one of the most exciting and satisfying things you can do it can also be the most daunting, and having a rapport with your architectural team is vital. We are now starting to see more women in positions of influence within our commercial relationships and so the rapport a balanced office provides can often be as simple as women being able to identify with one another or reassurance that opinions are heard and respected. Furthermore, to have women in management positions gives younger women in the practice the assurance that there is no glass ceiling for them. Through regular publications in our local Business Times, and volunteering to speak at schools etc, we hope this translates to the younger generation of women to encourage them into the industry.

We may be a small company but our efforts as an SME can help pave the way for change from the ground up as we grow. MBA does not stick with the quid pro quo by buying into the ‘boys club’ mentality, but instead hire the best person for the job.

As such we believe that Janet Lees at MBA should win because she represents a refreshing future where women are represented equally within the industry and she is helping to shape the future of British architecture.]

[Formed in 2009, MBA is a vibrant RIBA Chartered Practice dedicated to the delivery of well-designed buildings and spaces. We have a holistic and sensitive approach to sustainable design, within the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. We have enjoyed steady growth year on year, allowing us to expand and become multi-disciplinary with in-house structural engineers and interior designers. We are currently expanding the service options we offer clients through creating strategic partners in landscape, mechanical services, and electrical engineering.

We want to create beautifully engineered and carefully considered buildings that help to shape the future of British architecture. We want to inspire generations to come, through socially responsible and ethical design. We want people to be proud to own, live in or work within one of our buildings. We want to leave a legacy.]

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact:

Gary Higson [BSc Hons]

[Business Development Executive]

[g.higson@matchboxarchitects.co.uk [01933] 697 222]

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