"I have had to hold my own ground."
Women at the top of organisations across the North West lead the way in creating more diverse workplaces. Colette McKune is featured in this month's Business Insider document.
Colette McKune was appointed group chief executive of social purpose group ForViva in June 2019, following a career in construction, the charity sector and the police – all male-dominated sectors.
The group, which employs 1,200 people across England, has 15 offices and oversees housing provider ForHousing, which owns 24,000 homes in the North West, and property services business Liberty Group.
“I’ve faced discrimination on a regular basis as a woman and I’d had to become resilient and hold my own ground for my right to be at the table.” McKune says.
“I was stopped from a career progression in the past and the reason they gave was ‘what’s the point of spending that money when she’ll only get herself pregnant’. I left because my career couldn’t go any further.”
Walking into meetings she’s often been mistaken for a PA.
“Things still happen now, like if I call on site and people don’t know who I am and I get ‘hi love, what are you doing here?’.” She says.
“People don’t seem to see that you can be a senior person of influence and be a woman and my concern is that there’s still an inequality there – although it is more covert now. There’s a different language used to describe women, but I always challenge that.”
McKune has made it her goal to create a better balance within ForViva, with mentoring arranged for both men and women within the organisation. Across the business the split is 52 per cent male and 48 per cent female, yet in the construction side of the business only two per cent of operatives are female.
“I want to improve access to trades for women, including for those who want to change careers, because it can be extremely flexible, so as a sector we need to look at ourselves and ask why we’re not attracting more women.” she says, adding that measures can be put in place to assist with heavy lifting for example.
There’s a culture change that needs to happen so people see the value of women in construction, not just as admin or cleaners.”