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Merchant director promotes construction industry for all genders

A director of a brick and builders merchants says that the construction industry offers great opportunities for anyone, regardless of their gender.

“Construction is a brilliant industry with a lot of skills to be learned and money to be made for all genders,” says Sophie Wilbraham director of London Reclaimed Brick Merchants.

The construction sector has traditionally been seen as a “men’s only” or “macho” industry with little to no space for women to make an impact. Thankfully significant progress has been made in the last ten years with more and more females entering construction.

Campaigns such as #NotJustForBoys<https://www.constructionyouth.org.uk/resource/notjustforboys-campaign-materials> have also helped shatter the misconception that there are limited career prospects for women in the industry. On International Women’s Day, we here at London Reclaimed Brick Merchants are celebrating our role at the forefront of this story.

Changes have been impressive, with four times more women starting to work in construction in 2016 than in 2011 and there are forecasts that women will make up over a quarter of all UK construction workers in 2020 according to a report<https://www.randstad.co.uk/women-in-work/women-in-the-uk-construction-industry-in-2016.pdf> by recruitment firm Randstad, but many women still avoid a career in construction because of a lack of suitable role models.

At our family-run company however, women have taken on important roles long before these recent changes and our director Sophie is an ideal example for any young females looking to enter the industry. “I think women are better at encouragement and engagement and those are vitally important in managing any business as it provides a positive team environment,” she says.

Wilbraham has worked in the construction sector as a builders’ merchant for the last 18 years since she was at school and has developed a varied skill set, a breadth of knowledge and far-reaching expertise in her field “when I first started, the company wasn’t as well established as it is today,” she says, “I was 15 working on Saturdays and in the Summer holidays. The industry can be a tough environment but having worked my way up to Director things are better now.”

She is adamant that women can overcome any difficulties and work their way up to the top in the construction world, “just because I am the boss’s daughter does not mean people make life easy for me, in fact sometimes it can be quite the opposite, but after years of hard work and determination I am happy with my team and how I have developed as a manager,” she explains adding that “I now manage a team, of whom 9-10 are male with one other female who is my sister so it is great to work together support wise and we are close friends too.”

In her role as director, Wilbraham operates as the company’s general manager and runs our London head office and depot as well as our two storage yards in Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire, she is also responsible for directing our office and storage yard staff, managing our accounts and our fleet of HGVs and delivery drivers.

Wilbraham is delighted by the growing number of women entering the construction industry, and believes they have a huge amount to contribute to the sector moving forward, “I think it’s fantastic, it has always been and from what I can see still is a male dominated environment. The only women I encounter are buyers who come to us directly on the phone, I have yet to see females within the industry walk through the door but it’s good to know they are out there, it’s important in life to have diversity with gender, ethnicity and background.”

Offering some advice to young women considering a career in the construction industry she says:


“you have to start somewhere, if I can do it, there’s no reason why another woman couldn’t.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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