“It would be good to see new, young life, penetrating the upper echelons. This would inspire and nurture greater innovation and developments within the industry, which in turn, would prove more attractive to women and potentially pioneer new ways of thinking.”
She believes that the industry can still be perceived as a ‘boys club’, however, commenting: “This can be extremely off-putting, particularly for young females looking to climb the career ladder.
“For example, I once attended a corporate event and I was the only female in the room alongside 18 male colleagues. Remarkably, there is still this perception that some jobs within the industry are solely for men – as such, you’ll still see very few women in technical positions.”
While Smith hasn’t experienced sexism in any of her workplaces, she did recount an incident where she answered a question posed by a chef during a site meeting. “His reaction was to shrug his shoulders and direct the question back to my male colleague,” she said.
Lorraine Christie, area sales manager at Torquay-based distributor Allsop & Pitts, reported that the balance of women in the industry “is a little better than it used to be, certainly dealing with front of house equipment”. However, she acknowledged: “There does appear to be a lack of women on heavy equipment and the design side of the industry.”
She thinks that women do want to enter the industry, stating: “I believe we can be as successful in a sales environment as a male can be and I also think it’s good to have the mixture of genders as possibly sometimes we can bring a softer view to the table.
“Sometimes when I am on site, you can see the site manager look through you. I usually find once a meeting moves on and they listen to my input then the balance settles a little,” she reported. “It’s overcoming the myth that a woman can’t understand technical service for equipment. At the end of the day I have to pass the same Construction Skills Certification as my male counterparts do.”