Published on:

30 November 2022

Updated on:

07 December 2022

Read time:

10 minutes

Iyna Butt

Group People Director

Office Principle’s people and talent director, Iyna Butt looks at what it means to be a woman in the senior leadership team, in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry, and introduces the personal accounts of some of our female leaders, including her own.

Having spent around 16 years working in a variety of different industries around the UK, it’s clear to me that, in many organisations, the higher up the chain you go, the less you see women around the table. This is especially true in the more heavily male-dominated industries, where gender inequality is rife.

Or, at least, that had been my experience prior to my current job.

At Office Principles, not only do we give everyone a seat at the table (we have a split of almost 50/50 on our leadership team, way above the national average), everyone has the same opportunities to grow, develop, have a voice and get paid equally too.

We don’t just ‘create’ values and company objectives around supporting our people, we live by them. As people and talent director, I am in a privileged position where I get to sit at the top table and I am a party to how our company is run. I know that all of our people are supported, regardless of who they are or how they identify. It’s a strong claim to make but I make it comparing my years at Office Principles to the years spent in other businesses where I had no such certainty and being a woman in industry made the path more of an uphill struggle, for most of the time.

Here and now, reporting to the business owners in what is, irrefutably, the male-led construction industry, I get to bring any ideas and suggestions I have, without fear of judgement, and then to deliver these initiatives across the business.

Such initiatives have run, from opening discussions on mental health, the menopause and introducing wellbeing strategies to one-to-one coaching sessions and workshops on neurodiversity in the workplace.

We’re not perfect - no organisation is - but we are on a journey.

We are continuously learning and will continue to educate all of the people across our business, especially focusing on management and leadership development. Providing a safe environment for our people is, and has to be, an ongoing commitment, so that they can carry on raising their voices and getting the support they need, whether that’s for childcare, flexibility in their work and working hours or for any health concerns.

There are many out there who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. I promise you, as our stats prove, Office Principles is doing the walking.

Tina Batham 2x

Tina Batham, joint managing director of Office Principles North

I’ve been in the industry for almost 25 years and have worked my way up from site level, as a quality manager, to my current role as managing director.

Throughout that time, I’ve also been a single mum of two boys so I understand the challenges and prejudices that are faced by all women in the workplace - particularly working mothers.

In too many previous roles, my gender has been of greater significance to my employer than my skills or abilities. Opportunities have been harder to come by than for male counterparts which has meant that, not only have I not been allowed to flourish but, my employers have missed out on the benefits that I could have delivered.

I won’t allow that to happen in our business and, thankfully, not only am I in a position to influence decisions that are made, I am also surrounded by people who share the same vision and values.

For the first time in my career I’ve been able to create the workplace that I've always wanted to be in. It’s where we treat our team members as people not problems. We look at what they can do rather than wasting time on what they aren’t or can’t.

We don’t place limits on people; we believe that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to. Instead, we create the conditions to allow them to think creatively and work in ways which enable them to be the very best they can be. We’ve found that’s not only good for them, it’s good for business too.

And while we work really hard, we also reward our people fairly and we care about their wellbeing. Work/life balance isn’t a tick box exercise, it’s about looking after each other and encouraging people to spend more time with their families whenever they can.

We’re proof that being kind, doesn’t mean you can’t thrive.

Iyna Butt 2x

Iyna Butt - People & Talent Director

Building a career as a women can be difficult - and the challenges only increase when you add in the elements of being a mum and ill health.

Due to financial constraints, I had to go back into full-time work when my son was just four months old. I was at the start of my HR career and I knew I had to work extremely hard to balance being a mum with managing a full-time job.

Then, just as my career was taking off, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. What I didn't anticipate was the impact this would have on my career and how the challenges would further increase. Past employers made assumptions that everyone needed the same support rather than providing different support to individuals so that everyone has equal access to succeed.

From these past experiences, I knew companies weren’t great at adapting work, for women in particular, and were focused more on equality rather than equity. With that in mind, I came to Office Principles to be a part of something different.

In my role as People & Talent Director, for the first time in my career, I’m accepted as an individual and am able to bring with me all that I have to offer. It’s an ethos that drives growth at Office Principles. I’m part of an incredible team that focuses on people’s strengths rather than their challenges. There’s an understanding that we need to focus on our wellbeing and give our families the time they need and deserve, without any guilt.

We concentrate on our people; equity rather than equality.

I’m most proud to have been able to challenge the status quo over the years; I can be a mum, a cancer survivor and have a seat at the table as a director.

Jo Jenkinson 2x

Jo Jenkinson, design director

Having secured a first class and honorary award for finishing top of my class at university, I was pretty confident when I started out. Honestly? I wasn’t thinking in terms of being ‘a woman in the workplace’, I was just trying to find my feet.

I did a few freelance architectural designer roles before landing in commercial design – then the recession hit and it was pretty difficult to find the right opportunities. Looking back, as a young female designer, it did feel like the industry was male-dominated and the glass ceiling I’d read about suddenly became ‘a thing’ that I was beginning to see play out.

Because of this, I started to think women were more limited in their options. The epitome of this understanding came when my engagement ring was noted during an interview and the male panel saw that as a green light to question me about my future marital status and any plans I might have to start a family. It was me versus a male candidate and, although I eventually got offered the job, I had no qualms turning it down. I didn’t want to work for a company that would treat female recruits with such a lack of respect.

I’ve been lucky to work with some great women - one was my line manager who had a child and managed to juggle everything. This gave me a good insight that you can balance a career and motherhood, rather than sacrificing one for the other. Don’t get me wrong at times you can and do experience ‘mum guilt’ but, for the most part, I feel proud to teach my children that work and life can be integrated harmoniously.

I’m passionate about good design and find a sense of fulfilment in my work. When I started my family, I didn’t want to put my career on the backburner. My job and my family are important to me. I’m a perfectionist and I wanted to be effective in both roles. Office Principles has allowed me that opportunity.

Seven years on, and with three young children, Office Principles enables me to bring my whole self to work; it’s me they value and not what I represent. We have a progressive working environment where the senior leadership team has a strong understanding of how the workplace should be – and I’m proud to be on that team, having progressed pretty quickly during my time here.

We’ve worked as a company to place being humble and caring as core values and those values are evident in daily practice. Any woman, coming in to Office Principles, can move up in her career, have a healthy family relationship and be herself knowing she’s cared for in the workplace - when you have a family that’s young and reliant on you, that’s invaluable.

Meet the Author

As Group People Director, Iyna is a strategic leader focused on talent acquisition, development, and engagement. She excels at building high-performing teams and inclusive cultures. Her passion for empowering employees enables her to foster an environment where people thrive. Iyna is dedicated to cultivating a workplace where employees feel valued, inspired, and empowered.