Maria Kaskara, L&Q

Maria, 26, is passionate about promoting female roles in the construction industry – in fact she wrote her Master’s dissertation on the differences in managerial competencies between male and female project managers, and when not on site she dedicates time to hosting workshops and talks at local London schools encouraging female students to consider working in the field.

In her role working on new housing developments for L&Q, Maria is responsible for managing the construction of new developments from start to finish and loves that she has the opportunity to play a key role in building a brand new home from the ground up.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am currently working as a Graduate Assistant Site Manager on site at leading property developer L&Q’s new development The Rushgroves in Hendon, as part of L&Q’s graduate scheme.

After completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering in Greece, I moved to London to complete my Master’s in Project and Enterprise Management at UCL, before joining the L&Q Academy for the construction graduate scheme last September.

I have a number of responsibilities across the site, including conducting health and safety checks, keeping site diaries up to date, attending meetings with sub-contractors and dealing with everyday issues and logistics. I like to get involved with “a bit of everything”, and also implement quality checks, to ensure that construction proceeds in accordance with design drawings and specifications.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I wouldn’t say I have ever sat down and planned my career but I have always wanted to work in construction and follow in my father’s footsteps and that’s why I decided to study engineering. My passion for engineering continued through my whole university life, so when I graduated I knew that I wanted to work on construction sites and see everything happening in real life.

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Every day can be challenging on a construction site. When you’re working on a development like The Rushgroves with 387 homes, there is so much work taking place and everything changes so quickly. Striking the right balance between time, cost and quality is not an easy job but is key to success, so some days on site can become stressful. However, it is great to be challenged and get the job done. This is what I personally find very rewarding in construction.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

I would like to see more women in senior roles in the construction industry. Construction is very male dominated and I think we still have a long way to go to reduce the gender pay gap and have strong female roles in the highest positions.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I have been lucky throughout my career so far to always have people that could give me formal and informal advice and support. I’ve gained so much by observing how my peers respond to certain situations in the workplace and on site and have learned a lot from them.

Since joining L&Q, I have been delivering talks at secondary schools around London, where I inform young people about how I started working in the construction industry, the different roles available to them in the industry and answer questions the students have. I really enjoy passing on my experience to young people and I hope that as a female I can influence more young women who attend my talks to consider construction as a career!

How would you encourage more young women and girls into a career in construction?

I am currently a member of the National Association of Women in Construction and encouraging more women to consider a career in construction is a huge passion of mine – in fact I wrote my Master’s dissertation on the differences in managerial competencies between male and female project managers! I would certainly encourage more women to consider a career in the industry – I think most people would think of the stereotypical male builder, however there is a huge selection of different design and management roles on offer in which women can excel, and there are construction roles across all sorts of developments – from housing to council planning.

I personally love my job at The Rushgroves because I’m able to spend a good part of my day outside and it’s a very satisfying role, as I’m able to witness the progress of a development of such a great scale from start to finish and play a key role in building brand new homes from the ground up. I also love involving the local community in our work. Recently at The Rushgroves we led a project with art students from Barnet and Southgate College, who created designs for the site hoardings encapsulating three key themes for the town of Hendon – community, environment and the future.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

In the future I would like to continue to develop my career, skills and experience to become a future leader in the construction industry. I have already started to work towards my chartership to become a well-rounded project manager. Inspiring and guiding more girls and women into construction would also be one of my priorities.