We are very excited to announce a new UK Hub for our ‘Women in Sustainability’ community. Stepping up to lead a Hub for Hertfordshire is Virginia Cinquemani, soft skills trainer and coach for sustainability professionals through her company Green Gorilla Consultants.
1. Tell us a bit about your background – How did you get to be where you are now?
I first came from Italy to the UK in 2002, armed with a degree in Architecture and very little English. I worked in architectural studios for three years but soon realised that life was very hard as a foreigner young woman in the construction industry. I then decided to follow my true passion, sustainability, and enrolled in an MSc in Energy Efficient and Sustainable Building at Oxford Brookes. After that, I found a job at the Building Research Establishment as a sustainability consultant developing BREEAM guidance. I spent nearly 12 years at BRE, in various roles, from technical to commercial. In 2018 I got made redundant and decided to found Green Gorilla Consultants Ltd, with the aim of supporting fellow sustainability professionals to become stronger advocates of sustainability, via tailored training and coaching. My ultimate aim is to make sustainability a no-brainer for everyone, and the role sustainability professionals have in communicating this message correctly is key.
2. What’s been your biggest success to date as a sustainability practitioner? And your greatest challenge?
I recently published a book, SustainABLE: How to Find Success as a Sustainability Professional in a Rapidly Changing World, and the book, from feedback and direct messages I receive, is helping many people change the way they see themselves as sustainability professionals, providing them with the right tools to feel empowered and to sell sustainability ethically. That’s for me a huge achievement.
My greatest challenge is to spread this message further and reach those professionals that still can’t make an impact.
3. Why lead WINS Hertfordshire? What are you hoping to achieve?
Hertfordshire is a great hub for sustainable and innovative enterprises, including BRE, Rothamsted Research, AECOM, the University of Hertfordshire, SKANSKA and others, many of which operate in construction. What’s missing is a means of connecting women in this space together. As I mentioned, it was hard for me to make it as a young woman in the field when I started, so I figured that a dedicated WINS hub can help this audience become a lot stronger with the power of connection and coaching. I’d love women in this region to come together to create real change and for the group to become a close-knitted hub women can rely upon. I have a special interest in supporting young women that are starting their career in sustainability, so I’d love to focus some of the efforts on mentorship between members.
4. What do you think has shifted as a result of the pandemic for female change makers like yourself?
The pandemic made me a lot more resilient. I had to rethink my business model virtually overnight, and although scary, this extreme situation has produced my best initiative yet (the SustainABLE Mastermind). Finding strength and silver linings when everything around you is crumbling is a lesson I won’t forget.
5. What do think is the biggest challenge for ‘women in sustainability’? And what are your insights as to the best solutions to this?
From my experience, the biggest challenge for women in sustainability is their own mindset! We have a lot more strength and skill that we give ourselves credit for.
Awareness of the issue and a plan for overcoming these limiting beliefs can go very far in helping women feeling stronger and more assertive.
6. What keeps you motivated and positive when things get tough?
I am an optimist by nature, but when things get tough my ultimate goals and my family help me see things in perspective. I want to make my family proud and I want to make a difference. I am a bit of a planner, so I know what I want to achieve by the end of my year and in three and ten years time. Looking at my ultimate goals help me overcome the small setbacks I might encounter on my way.
7. Tell us something surprising about you….
I am quite artistic. Before founding Green Gorilla I toyed for a bit with the idea of becoming a professional photographer or illustrator…