Sinead chose architecture as a career that could combine her interests in both science and creativity. Her journey to qualifying as an architect involved stints at Murphy Philipps and Jestico + Whiles, where she worked on healthcare and educational projects. The pace of school projects, which move quickly from design to planning and construction, provided particularly valuable experience. Now at Collado Collins, Sinead works on a range of schemes including a 1,000-unit masterplan that encompasses everything from affordable housing, Build to Rent and later living.
Have you ever struggled to progress in your career?
It’s a bit of a slog to qualify in architecture, so struggle number one is just getting through it! The construction industry as a whole is traditionally quite male-heavy. Women do see things differently from a design perspective, which is very interesting and important. It helps, for example, to make spaces that are safe and inclusive.
Given the industry’s gender gap in leadership, how did you reach your level of success?
I was brought up never to see gender as an obstacle and to do what I want to do, and I’ve always had blind faith in that approach. Perhaps you could call it stubbornness – but it’s worked for me!
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?
With architecture, part of the problem is the time commitment. When I studied, it was five full years at university – which is five years when you’re not earning. And that was before the fees got ridiculous. So, there’s a big financial burden, which creates a lack of inclusivity. Universities are changing to allow people to work alongside study, which is a positive move and sets people up better for a career.
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?
I think it looks positive. You see more and more women in leadership roles everywhere. Sometimes at conferences I still look around and wonder where the women are – but I feel that is changing. As for advice, I’d suggest courage is important. As the architect in a design team meeting with maybe 20 people, it is usually you who runs the meeting. Overall, I’d say don’t see the obstacles. And remember that because there are fewer of us, it’s easy to talk to other women in the industry. We can use that to our advantage.
Who inspired you/are your role models and who do you admire in the industry?
My parents, who instilled in my sister and I the thought that if you just work hard, you can get what you want – and that the only obstacle is yourself. That’s been the key thing that has motivated and inspired me.
What’s been your most memorable project?
It was one of my first projects, a school for people with autism. I saw the process nearly all the way through and went back to look at the completed building, which was a very calm and gentle space. You could feel the appreciation of the space – it was a very rewarding experience.