Suzanne’s up for a European honour

| Corporate | Housing

Metropolitan’s Asbestos Manager Suzanne Smith is a finalist at the prestigious European Women in Construction and Engineering Awards

Suzanne-SmithMetropolitan’s Suzanne Smith has been shortlisted for a European Women in Construction and Engineering (WICE) Award.

Her nomination in the ‘best consultant’ category reflects both the work of her asbestos consultancy and as Metropolitan’s Asbestos Manager.

Suzanne, who joined Metropolitan from Derby Homes in December, is responsible for keeping everyone from residents to repair teams safe from asbestos. The role involves all aspects of asbestos management including arranging surveys, reviewing procedures, managing contractors and dealing with emergencies.

The prestigious WICE awards celebrate the achievements of Europe’s leading women engineers, architects, planners and surveyors. They also salute them as role models for the next generation.

Women are significantly outnumbered by men in the engineering and construction sectors. Currently, only 9% of UK engineering professionals are women, while they constitute just 11% of the UK’s construction workforce.

Suzanne organises events on behalf of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and is a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Ambassador, visiting schools and universities to encourage girls to consider engineering careers.

Her own schoolgirl ambitions to be a domestic appliance repairer, though, were quashed by teachers who told her it was no job for a woman.

A natural problem solver, she found alternative employment in the aerospace engineering field, studying as she went. She was the only female on her engineering course at college and one of just five in her Open University cohort of 200, studying for an engineering degree.

When she was made redundant, she moved into asbestos management. “It wasn’t a career I planned,” she admits, “but I enjoyed it. I worked in the lab, conducting building surveys and managing projects.”

In the early days, she would call construction sites to fix appointments for her surveys. “They’d ask who I was sending,” recalls Suzanne. “They presumed I was the secretary. And when I got there, they’d ask whether I could manage the ladders.

“Asbestos is very male dominated,” she adds, “and I have experienced a lot of discrimination. But I love doing my job and it’s only made me more determined.”

The awards ceremony will take place in London on 24 May. The finalists have already attended a full-day forum where they delivered a presentation, faced an interview panel and gave a one-minute pitch on why they should win.

But it’s less about glory for Suzanne, who is up against nominees from some of Europe’s construction giants, and more about the opportunity for the industry’s women to get together and celebrate each other’s successes.

“It’s an honour to be nominated,” says Suzanne, who was a finalist last year in the health and safety category. “It’s also a fabulous event.”