Supporting gender diversity – Interview with Helen Peach, Atamate

Supporting gender diversity and encouraging conversations to support the growth of women across the industry, David Phillips talks to Helen Peach, Marketing Director at Atamate.

Helen Peach, Marketing Director at Atamate who takes part in our diversity series - David Phillips | BTR News
Helen Peach, Marketing Director at Atamate.

Helen took an unconventional route into construction, following a biology degree with work at several small companies before starting a career at Royal Mail, where she headed up SME marketing. At a point where she was finding the bureaucracy of a large organisation stifling, Helen met a software entrepreneur whose business needed help, and ten years later, she’s Marketing Director at Atamate.

Have you ever struggled to progress in your career?

No. But in my current role I’ve been struck by how few women there are both in construction and in software. I’ve spent ten years trying to find female software developers: it’s really hard to recruit and attract people into the sector. It’s the same for mechanical and electrical engineering, too.

Have you felt that being a woman has given you an advantage in the industry?

I’m not sure I’d say it’s given me an advantage, but it’s certainly had novelty value. When we get into the technical details of devices and software, people are sometimes surprised that I know what I’m talking about. In a small business, it’s important that you understand everything about it. In my role, that means knowing the technology as well how to market it.

Given the industry’s gender gap in leadership, how did you reach your level of success?

I had already been relatively successful in my role at Royal Mail, so in construction I was swapping sectors rather than rising through the ranks. I’m curious to see how it feels for young women starting out in construction: it’s different for people like me who took a sideways move into the sector. It’s a huge industry with many sub-sectors, and one thing’s for sure – you don’t see many women working onsite. I think there’s a generational change now, though: my daughters, for example, believe they can be what they want to be. I think there will be more pushback from women who feel they are being offered less in the workplace.

What needs to change to inform the next generation of female leaders about the industry and the roles available to them? Do we need more support for women at school level to understand the opportunity?

Absolutely. I never saw construction at school careers events – apart from maybe architecture. More young women are studying maths now but that’s still not feeding through into engineering or software engineering. That said, women are definitely getting the message that if you want it, it’s open to you. It’s up to companies in the sector to amplify the message and turn up at careers evenings. I also think it’s important to spread the message that you don’t have to work for big-name companies: smaller businesses can offer a more enriching environment.

What does the future look like for women in property and what advice would you give the next generation of female leaders joining the industry?

It’s very positive and it’s a really interesting sector. The push towards net zero and rising energy prices are focusing minds and making change happen in an industry that has historically resisted it. There are so many opportunities today, so much innovation and new technology, that my advice to female leaders is: go for it!

Who inspired you/are your role models and who do you admire in the industry?

My mother, who’s a force of nature. She’s 81 now, a chemist and Oxford academic who was told by colleagues that women don’t do science. She ignored them and went ahead at the same time as bringing up four kids – she’s an extraordinary role model. This isn’t to say that women can always ‘have it all’ – but my mother’s example shows that there’s a way through if you don’t listen to the people who say you can’t do things.