100 for 100 series: Natalie Olson | Wates

100 for 100 series: Natalie Olson

“Construction is a great industry for anyone to be in regardless of gender. Don’t let being a woman put you off.”

Equality of opportunity for everyone is essential for businesses to thrive. For 2019 International Woman’s Day,  Natalie Olson shares what #balanceforbetter means to her.

Natalie Olson - Production Management Trainee, Smartspace

Introduce yourself for us
Natalie Olson, a Production Management Trainee for Wates Smartspace. I am also a CIOB student member and committee member of the CIOB Novus group.

How long have you been in your current role?
1 year

What brought you to Wates?
I originally applied to a various number of universities to study Construction Project Management, I received 4 unconditional offers however declined these to apply for a Business course instead. Unfortunately I didn’t get the A Level grades I needed for this so I took a year out of education, during this time I travelled solo to Nepal to help re-build and decorate schools that had suffered severe damage during the 2015 earthquake, this experience confirmed to me that I wanted a career in Construction.

When I landed back in the UK I contacted every North West Construction firm asking for unpaid work experience, enquiring about trainee schemes, finding any way to get my foot in the door. During this search I came across Wates’ website, I was instantly impressed by the award winning Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainability programme mentioned and Wates’ vision to leave a positive legacy for communities. Wates family ethos and values also stood out to me and I applied for the trainee scheme there and then, 12 months later I started as a Production Trainee and I have never looked back.

What advice would you give to women entering the industry?
Construction is a great industry for anyone to be in regardless of gender, don’t let being a woman put you off, you will be treated the same as everyone else as long as you’re willing to get stuck in.

Don’t feel you have to change in order to fit in; I am a girly-girl and regularly seen on site with my hair extensions in, with my nails, eyelashes and eyebrows done but I am still taken seriously and do the same jobs on site as everyone else.

There is more to construction than being on a cold, rainy site outdoors all day as what is often portrayed. There are so many different roles are available both in an office and out on site all of which can be done by women.

Who are your role models?
My role model has to be my mum!

When my mum was at school she was told that she could only do certain jobs and career advice was near non-existent, this led to her going to secretarial college as apparently women couldn’t do anything else. Over the years my mum ensured I had the best education possible in order to open more doors and to ensure that I could go on into any career. When I showed interests in Engineering and Construction she helped me gain valuable work experience and motivated me to follow these interests. Seeing my mum’s career progress has also been very motivating, she is now an IT consultant for one of the world’s largest defence firms which just shows women can do anything despite what other people may say.

Tell us something unusual about you
I’m great with guns. I have been target shooting at a number of army barracks and often go clay pigeon shooting.

What changes would you like to see in 100 years’ time?
We have come so far in the past 100 years I am hoping the world will have changed considerably in another 100 years’ time.

Hopefully it will be the norm for Women to be in high powered positions throughout all industries, there to be no mention of the pay gap as it won’t exist and for the construction industry to be more inclusive of all regardless of gender, disability, and race.

I also hope that construction will have a more positive impact on the environment. I love trying to make environmentally focused changes whilst on site and hope to encourage others to do the same. In 100 years it would be great for energy efficient cabins to be standard and for the amount of waste produced by the industry to be considerably lower than it is currently.