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Women make their mark at Bagnalls

Women are still vastly underrepresented in the construction sector, making up only 20% of the workforce. This disparity is felt even more acutely in the subsector of painting and decorating, where it’s estimated that only 7.2% of employees are women.

To coincide with International Women’s Day (March 8th) five women working in varying roles at painting and decorating firm Bagnalls, discuss their experiences in the sector, as well as the challenges they’ve faced.

Tell us about the biggest challenges you’ve faced and how you overcame them.

Joanne Gualda: Group Marketing Director

When it comes to challenges in my career, there have been a few, I started work in 1990 when the standards of equality and behaviour in the workplace today were quite different. This ranged from lewd comments and subtle remarks about women being successful. I’ve persevered and proven my worth and as such, I’ve been recognised and rewarded. At Bagnalls I have completed an MA, been promoted, and had a daughter.

Jane Potter: Branch Manager, Leeds and York

An important lesson I learnt is that you can do it – but that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. My colleagues at all levels are so supportive and there are times I need to ask for their support and engagement. I know that when asked, a colleague will help me achieve my goals and vice versa.

Abi Johnson: painter and decorator

Adjusting to the pandemic and a completely new way of work was a struggle at first. We’re always strict with hygiene and health and safety, but the pandemic brought that to a whole new level and changed the way we operate day-to-day. I like having a routine – so having it thrown off during those first few months took some adjusting to, but I overcame it.

Becky Slater: Head of Safety, Health, Environmental and Quality (SHEQ)

Joining Bagnalls at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, because our standard project schedules and methods of work were turned completely upside down. I’ve learned a lot about taking things one day at a time and ensuring that all the decisions we made continued to prioritise the safety of our staff and customers.

Katie Booth: Contracts Manager, Wolverhampton

Starting a new role with no experience in the sector was a challenge for me – a welcome one! There’s a noticeable lack of women in painting and decorating, and I occasionally receive sweeping statements or surprised reactions when people find out a woman is managing their project, however, I prove with time on the job what I’m capable of.

For women looking to get into painting and decorating, what advice would you give them?

Joanne: Don’t pre-judge the sector. The painting industry is so vast – from working with major blue-chip companies such as Akzo Nobel (Dulux) through to small scaffolding companies, the roles for women are vast. Bagnalls is proof that there are so many opportunities for women and no role is off-limits, from being a painter on-site to a Board Director. Whether you start as an apprentice, school leaver or graduate, this is an industry where, with the right training and development, you can become supervisors, managers and even directors of the future.

Jane: Get stuck in! Don’t be afraid to take opportunities as they come – understand what you want to achieve and grab it with both hands. There are so many great possibilities for people to join the sector regardless of age and gender; seize them!

Katie: Be yourself and always strive to be the best you can be. Stay up to date with the latest qualifications, industry standards and management skills as the time you invest in these will be invaluable. At the same time stay one step ahead and don’t shy away from opportunities as they arise; remember that everyone is human and it’s okay to make mistakes as you learn.

Becky: Be confident, believe in yourself and never be afraid to ask questions.

Abi: You’ll need thick skin sometimes in such a male-dominated industry – but do it. The people at Bagnalls have been lovely and even though I’m often the only woman in a given situation, I’m rarely made to feel excluded or like I’m facing any prejudice. My overall experience within the industry has been extremely rewarding and given me so many incredible opportunities that I don’t regret it at all. In short, just go for it – we need more women in painting and decorating!

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