This is part of a special report produced in partnership with Gleeds

“Since I was a child, I was attracted to this sector and I fought to get into it. It was not easy at first because, although there were as many women as men in architecture school, 90% of them wanted to work in design or project management. Very few of us were focused on a career in the construction world,” says Ángela Patón Romero, site manager, ISG.

Patón Romero was born and raised in Madrid, with an interlude in Cáceres, a city in western Spain’s Extremadura region where she studied architecture.

Angela Paton-Romero

She then returned to Madrid to complete an internship and to start a master’s degree in interior design and architecture at the Madrid School of Architecture.

>> Special report: Women in construction

She says her transition from the architecture side of the industry into construction was a challenge at points, although her initial introduction was rather smooth.

While still at university, Patón Romero received a call from ISG in Iberia about a vacancy for a construction manager assistant position, a role she attained in 2014, leading to a decade spent so far at the company.

During those 10 years she has changed role several times. Within three years, she went from construction manager to site manager.

She has subsequently become one of the company’s project managers in Madrid, leading teams of 11 people with peaks of more than 200 workers.

Asked about the most influential moments in her career, Patón Romero cites the CooperVision distribution project in Madrid, saying it was the first time she worked in Spain for an English client.

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She says this taught her a lot about following the instructions of an English contract and dealing with English service expectations in terms of quality, meeting deadlines and procedures, which proved a key achievement for her confidence.

But Patón Romero says that overall her best project is undoubtedly her daughter. On this point, she says her main challenge has been reconciling her work with her private life, especially as a single mother.

“My daughter is six years old, and sometimes I have felt that my professional commitments made it difficult for me to fulfil my role as a mother. It’s never easy juggling schedules and plans,” Patón Romero explains.

In business, she says the most challenging and satisfying project she has been involved in has been the construction of the head office of an international strategic consultancy from the US located in Madrid.

And while she concedes that the challenges of work/life balance in construction have been amplified for women, she says in recent years giant steps have been taken in terms of the visibility of women in construction, at least within certain quarters.

She says this is why it is imperative for women in the field to be selective about where they work. “The average in the construction sector in Spain, according to ministry sources, is that there are 9.5 women for every 100 men, while in ISG in Iberia the ratio rises to 27%. That’s why I feel that women who enter the construction sector for the first time with forward-thinking companies will find it easier to adapt to the sector, and they won’t be looked at with suspicion.”

Asked whether she thinks of herself as an inspiration to other women who want to be leaders in construction, Patón Romero begins by saying she has sacrificed much and faced many challenges to get to where she is now.

“The trials I have faced, undoubtedly, have been worth it – and they have enabled me to get to where I am, so that I can encourage all women who want to follow me in this journey.”

She adds that her only advice to anyone who wants to enter the industry is that with patience and sacrifice, there are no limits.

“It is a long-distance race and requires a lot of effort and time, but the result is always positive,” she says. “Along the way, you learn different things from each site, and it is such a comforting feeling when you finish a project and see the fruit of all your efforts has been worth it.”

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