Lorraine Elliott, managing consultant at Hill International, talks about how writing to Building led her to set up the National Association of Women in Construction
What are the specific aims of NAWIC?
We are here to support professional women and raise their profile in the construction industry. The idea is that NAWIC will provide a forum for women to share knowledge and best practice and network with each other. I decided to set up the group after I wrote to Building earlier this year about women's positive contribution to the industry. I got about 200 responses from women who agreed that we're not getting the recognition we deserve. Although women have proven themselves to be an asset in this male-dominated industry, there are still too few of us making it to the top of the career ladder.

Do you feel you have ever been discriminated against because you are a woman?
No, I don't. But I know women who feel they have been overlooked for promotions because of their sex or that they have to work twice as hard to get the same result. It is not just a case of discrimination – the industry is not very good at attracting women. School career departments don't tend to advertise the courses available to everyone in construction and engineering, which is a problem NAWIC will aim to address.

Who can join NAWIC?
Professional women and women training to do professional jobs, including students. We're also inviting men to join as corporate members – it'd be very dull if there was no male involvement. We're hoping that Sir Michael Latham will support us and Paul Hodgkinson of the Simons Group has offered to speak at the launch party. We are very keen not to be seen as anti-men, and some of our events will include them.

After I wrote to Building, I got about 200 responses from women who agreed we’re not getting the recognition we deserve

What kind of activities will NAWIC run?
We're putting together a mentoring scheme whereby NAWIC members will take on a student for a work-experience placement lasting about a year. The student will then be mentored for up to three years after their graduation. This means the NAWIC member will be on hand to advise and provide support in those crucial early years. Members will go to schools in their area to promote construction-related professions and we will hold networking events including lunches, site visits and seminars.

What do you think distinguishes you from similar organisations?
The fact we are there to support all professional women in construction, whatever sector or discipline they work in. We also aim to promote the professions open to women, and mentor students and graduates to help them achieve recognition and promotion.