Women in Construction: Thomas & Adamson’s Natasha Kravchuk

“It’s simple – people should be paid equally for the job they do based on ability not gender, race or disability”

“The boundaries between male and female professionals and their ability to progress are becoming more blurred and I believe construction and the property industry is a great choice for any aspiring female professional….”

As part of the Women in Construction series, Thomas & Adamson’s Natasha Kravchuk on why ability is the more important than gender or any other difference…

What drove you to get into construction and your very first role in the industry? What were some of the influences that set you on your path?

It was circumstance initially – I got involved by assisting a British entrepreneur-developer with his projects in Ukraine. It was during that experience that my eyes were opened to a new industry and the potential opportunities. It was the catalyst for learning a new profession.

Tell us about your career, mentioning key milestones.

I started as a trainee quantity surveyor. I did a correspondence degree course to gain professional qualifications, while continuing to study for a MBA degree. I then progressed to QS and became involved in doing project management and ultimately ended up being promoted to director, responsible for running the office in Ukraine.

A few of my key achievements were in the UAE, they include being a project manager on the Etihad Business Class Lounge; the Etihad first class check-in facility upgrade; Billionaires Mansion – as PM and cost consultant. I have now relocated to Thomas & Adamson’s London office, where I am the director in charge of our project management department.

Diversity in the construction industry is important because of the value women can bring to clients, employers and projects. What opportunity do you see in the industry and what has been your proudest moment?

As far as opportunities, the more people think that you are not capable of doing the job, the greater the opportunity for you to thrive and prove them wrong. For me this has been a source of encouragement in my career rather than a hindrance.

What are some of the barriers to women entering the construction industry? What was your personal experience?

The construction industry is generally still male dominated everywhere but it was even more so when I first started. Gender and age may sometimes prevent you from being taken seriously – male counterparts do not always accept (or take seriously) a woman in a position of authority in construction. In particular being a PM – depending on regional background, some male professionals still struggle with being ‘managed’ by a female.

The GCC construction sector is still male dominated, however diversity is beginning to increase. If you agree with the above line, comment on what is driving this and how you see the GCC markets changing in the coming years? If you do not agree with the first line of this question, please share your thoughts/views of the market.

This is driven by clients to a large extent but also by the UAE Government. Within Etihad, there was no difference whether you were male or female. The Emiratisation Programme also brought along a lot of young female Emirati apprentices.

Everyone has a part to play in diversity and equal pay. What would you like to see government authorities and construction firms do to increase diversity and make pay a level playing field?

It’s simple – people should be paid equally for the job they do based on ability not gender, race or disability. One option would be to put more women in positions when they are able to control these things. In developed markets, there are market rates associated with professions which make it more difficult to manipulate pay levels. My experiences with Thomas & Adamson has always been that individuals are given opportunity and remuneration based solely on ability and contribution regardless of gender, race or disability. This is one of the principal reasons I stayed with them for over 20 years.

Besides authorities and construction firms, who else can play a part in increasing diversity and balancing pay scales?

All market players including consultants, clients and end users. Design-related professions have perhaps traditionally attracted more women than other construction professions – this should be promoted. Published market data also helps the setting of pay level benchmarks associated with specific jobs. Government bodies should also promote ability-based recruitment policies and avoiding any reference to gender.

As a woman in the industry, what has your experience been working in the GCC construction sector? If you have worked in markets outside the GCC, how does your experience here compare with what you’ve experienced and observed in other markets?

As well as the GCC, I have worked in Ukraine, Eastern Europe and the United Kingdom. My personal experience working for T&A was the same regardless of the location. The client body I worked with in the UAE had a fair representation of female professionals and treated them the same way as their male counterparts.

What is the biggest challenge women in the construction sector face in GCC countries? How can these challenges be addressed?

The main challenges are perception and ability to exercise authority; maternity leave issues; flexible working requirements and general respect from male counterparts – although I have not personally experienced any prejudice.

In doing your job, what sort of discrimination (if any) have you faced and how did Thomas & Adamson address it?

I am fortunate to never have encountered this.

Do you feel there’s a limit with regards to how far you can progress within Thomas & Adamson?

No – since I joined I was encouraged to be the best that I could be. This allowed me to progress and move up the career ladder. I was always told that there were opportunities based upon ability rather than gender and I am an example of this, having been afforded the opportunity to progress from a trainee to a professional, senior professional and finally director. I have now been a director within the organisation for over ten years and this has allowed me to participate on an equitable basis in the making of strategic business decisions. The way I have been treated influences the way that I treat and look to develop other people in my charge, regardless of gender, race or nationality.

How does the firm you currently work for approach diversity in the workplace? What more can your firm do to increase diversity?

Continue to engender the multi-cultural working environment, employ and provide opportunity for people regardless of their gender, nationality, creed or physical ability.

What advice would you give to a woman entering the GCC construction industry today?

It is a fast paced, dynamic and exciting industry with numerous diverse opportunities for anyone to develop as a professional. Construction offers plenty of career options to choose from. It is also very rewarding as you can see the fruits of your labor materialising in new objects that you help to create and deliver. It’s an opportunity to leave your mark on this planet. The boundaries between male and female professionals and their ability to progress are becoming more blurred and I believe construction and the property industry is a great choice for any aspiring female professional.

Please share any interesting stats/reports you’ve come across with regards to diversity in the construction sector.

I read a recent survey by Pinsent Masons on the GCC construction industry, which found overall sentiment in the region’s construction sector has improved by 7%. Couple this with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, where the country plans to increase women’s participation in the workforce from 22% to 30% by 2030, and there are indicators of fantastic upcoming opportunities for all in the sector.

To support the drive towards gender balance in the industry, Middle East Consultant and are highlighting female construction professionals in a series of profiles. By telling their stories and sharing their experiences on our print and digital platforms, we hope to inspire more women to join this vibrant industry.

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