Press release

Press Release: 18 April 2024

Almost two-thirds of UK women consider a predominately male workforce as a barrier to them applying for a role at a company

With this figure rising to 72% for all adults in London, Pocket Living shines a light on what the UK’s property and construction industry can learn from neighbouring France and how Government can help remove the stigma attached to the sector.

Research from innovative London-based housebuilder Pocket Living, conducted by Opinium, found that more than half (55%) of UK working adults consider a predominately male workforce as a barrier to them applying for a role at an organisation. This figure increases to 72% for Londoners and 65% when just analysing the views of UK female respondents.

With the Office for National Statistics reporting that only 15.8% of the UK’s construction workforce is currently made up of women; an increase on the 12.6% recorded pre-pandemic, there is clearly a lot more work required to attract women to the industry.

Salomé Joanno, a Project Manager at Pocket Living, who moved from France to London 14 years ago, doesn’t think the industry has managed to shift the dial much during that time.

“My perception from the last 14 years of being in the UK is there is a stigma attached to construction, which is that it is not quite made for women or attractive to them. Once you have joined, it’s still a hostile environment and not one that is easy to flourish within. 

“It’s still largely a men’s club, which, as you can see from our research, is a key barrier to women wanting to apply for a role. We all know the industry is already suffering from a huge shortage of resource and skills, and this certainly hasn’t helped. It is clearly something the industry must stop making excuses for, and address.”

Before moving to London, Salomé studied at ESTP Paris, which is one of the most prestigious Civil & Building Engineering schools in France, where, back in 2006 to 2009, around 25-30% of her course were female students.

“Don’t get me wrong, France also has work to do but construction felt like a totally respectable career to pick, even back then. In fact, it is a pretty attractive career choice for women, as well as many engineering courses, yet in the UK it often is a second choice”, explains Salomé.

“The course opened so many doors for me as we were invited to networking opportunities with contractors and other potential employers post-graduation. I was also surrounded by lots of really smart women; a quarter of women on the course meant that you were almost never the only women in a group.”

Salomé works for Pocket Living, where 67% of the workforce is female; 55% of which are in operational roles, such as development and project management.

Any challenging behaviour that may have been lingering from years ago has been weeded out at the company, which now lives and breathes an inclusive culture where everyone is respected and treated fairly. 

Kate Parker, Head of Marketing at Pocket Living, said: “It doesn’t come without work, our diversity and inclusion board has done a great job of educating the wider team about how difficult it can be for women in work, particularly in construction. We are also in a good position where we have a significant number of women holding senior roles, which has had a great impact on our company culture. There’s always work to do, but it feels good to know that improvements are happening for the next generation of aspiring females wanting to get into construction”

Impact of a balanced workforce on site

Pocket Living has partners who also encourage diversity and balance when it comes to integrating women into their workforce. This includes Legendre UK, a contractor part of the Legendre Group based in France, which is delivering a 90-home development with Pocket Living, exclusively for first-time buyers in Walthamstow, London.

“The very first time I visited Forest Road under Legendre UK, during the civil works phase, there were two site managers on site: a male Site Manager and a female Trainee Site Manager. This was extremely refreshing as you don’t normally see women in these roles, and even less so based on site – but I soon realised this wasn’t uncommon for Legendre”, commented Salomé.

54% of the Pocket and Legendre team working at Forest Road are women, which includes Rachel Ferguson, Senior Development Manager at Pocket Living, Thomasin Renshaw, Chief Development Officer at Pocket Living, Salomé Joanno, Project Manager at Pocket Living, Federica Suriano, Assistant Project Manager at Pocket Living, Anamaria Anghelina, Structural Works Engineer at Legendre, and Erika Aguilar Roque, Design Coordinator at Legendre.

“Having been on lots of construction sites you can quickly see the difference having a more balanced gender workforce has had at Forest Road. For a start, I can walk through the door and people don’t look at you like you have showed up to the wrong place. There are flower baskets, plants, coloured drawings and charts on the walls. You can even find hair straighteners and feminine hygiene products in the bathrooms. It is much more homely and welcoming than many site offices I’ve experienced”, explains Salomé.

“This may be a reflection on the culture at Legendre UK, however I am convinced it has at least something to do with the high proportion of women on site, and how happy they are. All in all, I’ve experienced a site everyone is pleased to show up to every morning and where healthy communication is fostered. We know how effective communication and coordination is to the success of these large and complex operations. Through implementing measures to make construction sites more inviting, we are not just building structures; but also constructing an inclusive environment that empowers and inspires other women into development and construction”.  

Alexia Dieumegard, Site Manager at Legendre UK, commented: "I've been working as Site Manager at Forest Road for the last year and a half following two years working in the construction industry. I've always wanted to work in construction, and pursued the career despite expectations from my friends, high school and university to follow a more conventional path. I can't think of anything more satisfying than overseeing the construction of a building from start to finish and then seeing it get utilised. I feel very supported at Legendre UK and look forward to continuing my career with them."

Pocket Living’s research reveals that the 18 to 34 year old age bracket (66%) is the most likely to be put off from working at a company if it has a heavily weighted male workforce. Therefore, if the industry wants to attract the next generation of male and female development officers, project managers and site managers, companies need to be paying closer attention to the gender balance of their teams on developments.

What needs to be done?

Looking ahead to what she hopes to see from the sector in the future, Thomasin Renshaw, Pocket Living’s Chief Development Officer, said there needs to be a change in how society views property development and construction across the spectrum, from academia to central government.

“We can do lots of good work ensuring that the business environment works for women, but I think until it starts to sound like an attractive industry to work in, reputationally, we will not see a step change in the proportion of women in our industry”, comments Thomasin.  

“Unhelpfully, government, and often local politicians, are quick to denigrate developers and modern construction in general. How can we expect young women to aspire to work in an industry that is described publicly by the most senior politicians as ‘manipulating’ rules, creating ‘ugly’ homes with ‘poor quality’ materials and is continually used as a scapegoat for the dwindling supply of affordable housing?

“This is frustrating because there is significant social benefit being delivered through development and construction. Getting it on the agenda at an academic level will increase awareness of available roles in the construction industry and establish the profession as one that enables young women to make a tangible impact that they can be proud of.”

Thomasin concludes: “Our scheme at Forest Road is not only a beautiful building built from high quality materials, but it’s also 100% affordable housing, and has provided jobs and apprenticeships for local people too.”

Pocket Living and Legendre are scheduled to PC at Forest Road in Q1 2024, ahead of its first residents moving in, but will be continuing their partnership across other developments in London, including Sheepcote Road in Harrow and The Heights in Greenwich.


Pocket Living commissioned Opinium to survey 2,000 UK adults to understand to what extent, if at all, would an organisation having a predominantly male workforce be a barrier to them applying to work at it.

This research was conducted between the 16th February – 20th February 2024.

About Pocket Living 

Pocket Living is an innovative housing developer, supported by the Mayor of London and Homes England, delivering well-designed, sustainable and affordable homes for London’s first-time buyers.

Pocket is currently the only UK developer dedicated to building and selling grant-free affordable homes.

Established in 2005, Pocket sells one-bedroom homes to those on moderate incomes, people who are essential to London’s economy but who cannot afford to buy on the open market and earn too much to qualify for social housing.

Pocket homes are sold outright to buyers at a 20% discount to the local market. Purchasers must live or work in the local area and will own 100% of their property from day one. Buy-to let investors are excluded and Pocket leases ensure the homes remain affordable in perpetuity by asking Pocket owners to prove they are residents in their homes and are not sub-letting.

For more information on Pocket homes or Pocket’s YouTube channel: 

Instagram: @pocketliving

TikTok: @pocketliving

For further information, please contact FTI Consulting:

Emily Smart – 07971 953 273 –

Millie James – 07970 606 303 –