“Most of the time it’s not so much about being a role model as encouraging other women to have the confidence to believe they can do what men have traditionally done, and I love installing that confidence in other women when it happens.”
1. Do you feel there is still stigma in the construction industry regarding women working in the construction sector?
There’s not disgrace in women working in the construction industry and surely by 2019 we’ve got past even thinking that. We’ve fought long and hard in this country for women to be treated as equals to men and not to allow themselves to be judged by their sex. Whether on the tools or in management, women can be just as good as their male counterparts. I have no understanding of the notion that women ’shouldn’t work in construction and support any initiative to promote that.
2. Have you ever experienced any negative comments when working?
It surprises people to learn that in my 23yrs working on and off building sites, there have been less than a handful of occasions when builders disrespect me, and when they do, the disrespect doesn’t last long. The men I’ve had true sexism from are the nasty smiling assassins in suits, those one who call themselves professionals. They tend to be the type of men not secure enough in their own knowledge to accept a woman might know more on a particular subject, or have better judgment. The men who get their hands dirty tend to respect others who are prepared to, whatever their sex.
3. Tell us what your day to day involves and what parts of your role you enjoy the most
My job is incredibly varied as I juggle the roles of landlord, lady builder, project manager and interior designer. Some years I wear one hat more than others. 2018/19 has seen a more hands off role as build project manager for the new BBC2 show Your Home Made Perfect, liaising between architects, builders, clients and production company to bring 15 ambitious renovation/builds to completion. Its been very challenging and all hidden behind the scenes. I could be one day dealing with building control issues, then next designing a bathroom, the next analysing cost data, then next wallpapering a room. What I love, what I have always loved most about being self employed in the property world is that every day is different and even day I learn something new.
4. How important is it for more women to be encouraged into the industry?
It is vital that as a society we support girls and women to enter and flourish is whatever industry they choose, be that a traditional ‘feminine’ one or one long dominated by men. In a post-Brexit world, the UK needs to be encouraging and training young people, male and female, in more practical roles, rather than focusing on just university style education. The skills shortage is real and the attitude of many young people to manual work can be quite dismissive, which isn’t a sensible approach given the excellent salaries achievable. The construction industry needs to get better at motivating and sparking interest in young people at a younger age – females included!
5. Do you promote inclusivity in any way?
I have spoken loud and proud about being a female in a man’s world for many years and regularly encourage women who get in touch with me to follow their dreams.
6. You present various TV shows, do you think your platform allows you to be a role model to women?
I’ve been lucky enough to be asked to be involved with various TV shows and love the messages I get afterwards as a ‘lady builder’. Sometimes just seeing a woman do a job traditionally enjoyed by a man is enough to encourage viewers to make even the smallest changes, maybe their first go at DIY or being more confident at dealing with a builder on their own renovation. Most of the time it’s not so much about being a role model as encouraging other women to have the confidence to believe they can do what men have traditionally done, and I love installing that confidence in other women when it happens.
7. It is so encouraging to see women being featured more, especially on TV programmes; can more still be done in your opinion to promote inclusivity?
I actually think women are really well represented on property shows, generally. On Your Home Made Perfect we have a female architect who delivers inspirational designs. On Getting The Builders In for the BBC1 last year there were several females on the teams, though more in the north than the south, I might say! Production companies are mindful of inclusivity and balancing the sexes these days – quote rightly.
8. Were you always passionate about pursuing a career within the construction industry?
No, not at all. I know nothing about property and construction until my twenties when I fell into managing a damp proofing franchise head office. I quickly became fascinated with seeing houses being taken apart and put back together, and enjoyed getting stuck in on site. Enjoying being in a skip and having your finger nails caked in building site grime isn’t for everyone, but I adore it. The honestly and banter on a building site and working with trades is so refreshing, it’s not like being in a back stabbing office environment and that works for me.
9. Do you feel that there are more options for women nowadays in terms of more companies hiring more women?
I’m the wrong person to ask really, I’ve never worked for anyone other than myself. When I was taken on by Remarkable TV, I was interviewed by an all female panel – perhaps as the glass ceiling breaks and more women are doing the hiring, maybe more women are being given roles traditionally given to men.
10. What one piece of advice would you give to other women out there that want to get into the construction industry?
Do it. Have a go. Get some work experience in different areas of property and construction, and find your niche, as there are so many different careers to be enjoyed. Whether on the tools or in a suit, there are very few jobs now where there aren’t female roles models, so find yourself a mentor, get the necessary qualifications and get climbing the ladder.