Mears Group – The Face of Equality
(The Following is a Promoted Article)
The construction industry continues to be dominated by males at both the top and bottom rungs of business, and females are desperately under-represented across all sub-sectors. That’s something which Jane Nelson, Executive Director of Mears Group is actively looking to challenge and, as a prime example of just how successful women can be within the sector herself, she’s well positioned to do so.
Founded in 1988, Mears Group has gone from being a small, local contractor to one the UK’s most competent and respected firms across areas of maintenance, development, facilities and estate management. Following a succession of domiciliary care acquisitions, including Care UK Homecare just last year, the company also boasts a further strand dedicated to providing high quality and integrated support for those who need it most. With such extensive services, Mears Group currently employs over 20,000 peoples in every region of the UK, and works across hundreds of thousands of properties each year.
With responsibility at the heart of the company’s every day operations, Nelson has also pushed the importance of maintaining accountability within the business, particularly as it relates to women. With a construction career spanning decades, Jane Nelson has considerably shaken up the industry; her prominence, itself, is a triumph amongst stories which, by and large, centre on male achievements. Beginning as a trainee painter and decorator, Nelson went on to attain a Master of Science degree in Construction Refurbishment Management at University College London, climbing the ranks until leading the operations of large local authority director labour organisation (DLO) in East London. From knowing the industry inside-out also comes a knowledge of the hardships, prejudices and difficulties faced by women in the sector, as well as the fact that females make up as little as 11% of the sector’s workforce and just 1% when it comes to on site works.
“Girls are told from a young age that construction isn’t a good career for women,” Nelson asserts. “But I want to show them that it absolutely can be. When I began my career, tradeswomen were commonplace but interest in the profession has waned and fewer young woman are undertaking training or apprenticeships in manual trades. Recent figures calculated by the Office of National Statistics highlight that just 1.76% of trade apprentices are women, the lowest number of women to commence formal training in a manual trade for a decade. Going into schools and enthusing girls about construction is one thing but that level of support and understanding has to endure throughout their schooling and beyond.”
Nelson calls upon employers, in particular, to do more in the way of inspiring young women. As well as visiting and delivering talks at schools on a regular basis, Mears Group has established a strong presence at the National Housing Maintenance Forum (NHMF) – largely thanks to Jane’s continued efforts. This year’s conference saw her, alongside Christine Townley, Executive Director for Construction Youth Trust and Billy Park, Head of Major Investment for Guinness Property, address the skills shortages ravaging the sector and propose wider female participation as a critical solution. In fact, the firm held its very own conference dedicated to showcasing both the achievements and future potential of women in the sector at the end of last year which Nelson describes as a major success.
“Mears Group is determined to recruit and retain a diverse workforce, so to hear the ideas of nearly 40 of our tradeswomen on how we can do that was brilliant,” says Nelson. “We welcomed a host of female representatives, from apprentices to experienced operations manager, and gave voice to things that mattered most to women in the industry.”
In witness to her determined efforts raising the profile of women in construction and encouraging young girls to seek a career in the sector, Jane was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at last month’s 10th anniversary of the Women in Construction Awards. Thanking the hard work of colleagues and drawing attention to the continually undervalued sector of planned maintenance, Nelson stressed that, despite the accolade, her career is far from over and she is to continue to champion both best practice and women for years to come.
And Mears Group has given the sector pause for thought in the sheer number of success histories amongst the females within its workforce. Whilst Nelson might exemplify that trend, she’s by no means the only woman to attract the merit of the wider sector; Michaela Walsh, a gas engineer from Manchester Working, part of Mears Group was shortlisted for the Best Female Apprentice at last year’s Women in Housing Awards. The annual awards ceremony is a staple of the calendar year for women and the industry alike, and aims to celebrate the achievements of both. The evening was hosted by Olympian, Diane Modahl and also featured an inspirational talk by philanthropist and TV presenter, Katie Piper.
Whilst women are surely a valuable resource on which to draw in order to fill the current skills gaps pervading the sector, they also have much more to offer the sector in the way of difference. Women have an inherently different biological make-up and their drive, compassion and analytic-thinking are strengths without which Mears Group wouldn’t be the same. The company currently provides rapid response and planned maintenance services to local authorities and registered social landlords nationwide, delivering 6,000 quality repairs to over a million homes every day. With an additional arm in domiciliary care, Mears Group is defined by the level of care is able to offer within its portfolio of services. In recognition of the importance of service, as well as end result, the firm prides itself on a highly customer-oriented approach with which it identifies exactly what the client needs and, crucially, delivers.
Furthermore, Mears Group has developed a specialist contact centre dedicated to serving the housing maintenance, care and support sectors – the firm’s three core markets. The facility makes use of the most advanced telecommunications technology and team of highly-trained professionals, equipping Mears Group with a 24 hour, 7 days a week service that is unrivalled in either quality responsiveness. Intelligent call monitoring systems automatically recognise where a caller is, allowing the company’s divisions to react quickly and effectively to clients’ needs in the same way as a local brand. The firm’s women are therefore an asset where its services are concerned and provide the much-needed personal touch in cases of home development, renovation and care.
Not just employing women because it’s “the right thing to do” but showing that women can do the job just as good as men as well as bring something new to the table, Mears Group is a true champion of equality with Jane Nelson at the helm. And with nothing but excellence in service and a committed programme of investment in its people, the firm is only set to increase in prominence in the coming years and can be defined by always being ahead of the curve.