Read about the winner and runners up for this year’s female leadership award


Winner: Jacqueline O’Donovan


O’Donovan Waste Disposal

Since becoming managing director at 19, O’Donovan has been a champion for road safety initiatives across the construction logistics industry. According to her firm, she has designed and delivered her own training, which she has shared with other companies to promote best practice. In-house, this training saw idling reduced by 50%, which in turn decreased emissions by 21.5%, while accidents have been reduced by 25%. As part of her work for the Construction Logistics and Community Safety standard, O’Donovan has worked with heavy goods vehicle manufacturers, advising on safer designs and introducing glazed lorry passenger doors to improve direct vision and increase road safety.


Building Awards


Caroline Compton-James


Director of strategy and communication Compton-James came to the firm with a background in social science and, it says, has been promoting diversity ever since. She herself says: “I have come to realise that as you become a bit more senior in your organisation, you do have a responsibility to other women to show that, based on your ability, anything is possible.”

Lesley Hammond


8Build, where Hammond is a director, says she believes “you can’t please all of the people all of the time but you shouldn’t stop trying”. She says increased diversity in the sector is important and takes her role as a different voice at the board table seriously. “If you just have the same group of middle-aged white men they are largely going to come with the same attitudes,” she says.

Anne Johnstone

Malcolm Hollis

Environmental specialist Johnstone says being a woman is an advantage in a disruptive part of the industry such as environmental consulting, as she can bring a new topic to light with a different voice. She joined the firm as a partner in 2016, tasked with setting up an in-house specialist environmental team. Chair of the UK Environmental Law Association, she is the first non-lawyer in the role.

Antoinette Nassopoulos-Erickson

Foster + Partners

Fosters, where Nassopoulos-Erickson is a senior partner, says she has been instrumental in the architecture practice’s aviation and terminal design work. She describes her approach to leadership as “guiding others without force into a direction or decision that leaves them still feeling empowered and accomplished” and chairs the firm’s women in business group.

Helen Pickering

Currie & Brown

Pickering is a senior director at Currie & Brown, holding a position on its London management board. She has increased turnover by 15% for her healthcare advisory team and has increased female representation at all levels in her team. “I take it seriously that I am on the board. I want to make sure female viewpoints are heard,” she says.

Jane Richards


As head of UK building structures at WSP, Richards leads a team of 500 technical staff and has been responsible for the delivery of projects including One Blackfriars. According to WSP her key strengths lie in “client relationships, technical excellence and team-building”. WSP says as a senior leader Richards provides opportunities for young engineers to take ownership of smaller projects. 

Samantha Smith


“The fact that women can bring something different, a different dynamic, to any table should be respected and valued,” says Smith, a director at architecture and building consultant AHR. As the sole woman on the alliance leadership team for the transpennine route upgrade, Smith is proving that true. AHR says that she was also “instrumental” in the firm winning the transpennine project to begin with. 

Lucy Vereenooghe


Building services and environmental engineering firm ChapmanBDSP says Vereenooghe’s dedication and passion for her work are what led her to be named the company’s first ever female engineering director last year. She has been part of projects including Dubai Creek Tower, which is set to become the world’s tallest building. The firm says in the past year Vereenooghe has raised and helped alleviate diversity issues across the business.