To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’ve been talking to some of the inspirational female professors at LJMU about their career journeys so far, as well as hearing their thoughts on what it means to be a woman in the workplace in the 21st century.
Alison Cotgrave is a Professor of Built Environment Education at LJMU. In addition to teaching her students, Alison is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Building, part of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, a Chartered Environmentalist and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She has also managed to find time in her busy schedule to co-author a number of books focusing on construction technology and has published extensive research in the area of sustainability in construction education. We caught up with Alison to discuss the importance of getting more women into the built environment sector.
When it comes to the issue of female representation in her area of expertise, she had this to say:
“In my opinion, there are simply not enough female students studying the built environment discipline. I believe this is largely down to the false perception that women may struggle to be successful in what is currently a male-dominated set of professions. This view is not just one taken by students but unfortunately by many parents too. This is extremely disappointing, as the opportunities for females within the built environment disciplines are enormous and I often feel that many capable women are missing out on the chance to engage in very fulfilling and lucrative careers. It has also been acknowledged by professional bodies associated with built environment that the unique skills and common personality traits that many females possess, could actually have a very positive impact on working practices within this industry.”
Alison believes that the key to empowering women and encouraging them to pursue careers within this sector is to celebrate and acknowledge them.
“I think it’s particularly important to attend as many events and awards as possible that shout loudly about the great projects professional women are involved in. If I have enough spare time I always try my best to attend any events that showcase the achievements of women. That’s why I think that International Women’s Day is such a significant event, as it recognises all of the hard work women throughout the globe are carrying out – both at home and within the workplace.”
As a working mother herself, Alison wants more women with families to chase their career dreams without feeling as if they’re being held back by family commitments.
“I try my best to be a role model for females throughout the University. I would like to think that young women see me as an example of how having a family does not preclude you from having a successful career too. I also believe that women can bring a different set of qualities to the workplace and that a fair gender balance is needed to support a successful working environment.”
While on the subject of role models, Alison reflects on the single most influential woman in her life.
“I admire many people of different genders and I have had role models that are male and female. However, the person that I look up to the most is the woman that made me what I am – my mother. I was lucky enough to be raised by someone that had an extremely successful career but was also a brilliant parent. Without her influence, I would never have considered the possibility that you can excel in both areas as a woman!”
If you’re inspired by Alison and considering a career in construction, take a look at our Built Environment courses.
Find out more about the origins of International Women’s Day and take a look at the other features in this series on Meet the Professors.