It’s no secret that the construction industry has been grappling with a skills shortage and the challenge of attracting a more diverse workforce. In 2019, women accounted for only 12% of construction workers. But the good news is we are seeing more women pursuing careers in timber engineering.

At the Trussed Rafter Association’s (TRA) ­ rst Roofscape Design Awards in April, two out of three award winners were women, and each demonstrated technical excellence, creativity and ingenuity in their roofscape designs that made full use of the bene­ ts of timber.

Gemma Weston, sales director at DWB Timber Engineering Anglia, has over two decades of experience in the industry. Her residential design in Essex showcased the potential of attic trusses in a complex structure with minimal internal support.

Meanwhile, Sue Darbyshire, design manager at Donaldson Timber Engineering, won an award for her highly innovative roof design for specialist care home builder Lawrence Baker. The judges praised her work as the most complex of all entries in all categories.

It’s clear that hiring more female designers is having an impact. But the goal is not to divide our workforce by gender; it’s to unite them through a common vision of excellence in roof and floor design and delivery. At the TRA, we believe that the best way to achieve this vision is to foster a culture of inclusion where everyone’s voice is heard and valued.

That’s why we provide opportunities and support for all our members to express their views and collaborate with each other. We are confident that this approach will lead to better outcomes for the industry.

I recently spoke to two female members of the TRA who also champion excellence in timber engineering.

Jill Sankey, managing director of Engineered Timber Solutions, sees diversity as the ideal solution for businesses to produce the best results.

“Your team needs to be built up of individuals with a diverse background and a mix of experience, which in turn will create better ideas and different options in terms of problem-solving those ideas,” she said.

“In roles such as roof truss design, having diverse outcomes and problem-solving ability is critical to design work evolving and producing the optimum result. I was really pleased to see two of the award winners were women. It absolutely proves the point that you can achieve some amazing results when you encourage a more diverse working environment.”

Rebecca Thick is a sales executive at Vidawood. She said she’s excited to see women breaking any stereotypes that may have been around and embracing the change we all welcome.

I hope we will see many more female trussed rafter designers stepping forward and getting recognised for their skills in next year’s awards. In the meantime, read about this year’s winning projects at: awards/