As International Women’s Day 2022 was celebrated around the world, Bradfords Building Supplies profiles three of the many inspirational women who play pivotal roles within the business

Cath Mullin, Regional Director, Devon and Cornwall, joined Bradfords in 2016. She began her career in builders’ merchanting 25 years ago…

“Construction has always been a male-dominated industry, but it’s definitely changing. When I started my career, it was virtually unheard of for a woman to work in construction, unless they were doing an admin-based role, but today there are more women in our sector than ever before. And I think Bradfords has a higher proportion of female employees than the industry average.

As long as you have grit, determination and resilience, you’ll succeed regardless of your gender and every woman who has progressed at Bradfords has achieved that on their own merit.

As a family-run business, we all look out for each other and I think that some of our male colleagues may naturally feel protective towards us – just as they would their wives, sisters or daughters, for example. But I work with some strong ladies who certainly wouldn’t want to feel like they needed any protection!

If there was more awareness about the careers available in construction, I think more females would consider it. When it came to leaving school and deciding which path to take, I saw an advertisement for a management trainee position and chose it for the opportunity it presented, rather than the fact it happened to be at a builders’ merchant. I fell in love with the nature of this business and the great customers and colleagues I get to work with. All the women I work with are ambitious and enthusiastic about their jobs, but we need to think about how to use that to inspire others.”

Gaynor Peters, Head of Partnerships, agrees that more could be done to encourage women to consider careers in construction…

“I joined NatWest at the age of 17, but after 15 years I decided to explore my options beyond the world of banking. I took a maternity cover role at a merchant as a means of buying time while I thought about what to do next, but I got hooked and have been working in this sector ever since.

That was 22 years ago and, back then, our industry was very male dominated and, at branch level, I think customers expected to be served by men. But that’s all changed.

For any women considering a role in our field, I’d tell them not to be scared about it. There are all kinds of roles in this industry that need so many different skillsets.

I couldn’t care less about the gender of whoever I work with, but it’s always nice to see females coming through the ranks to a senior level within the construction industry. For those starting out, you can always ask your colleagues for advice if your customer asks you something you can’t answer and we’re all really supportive of each other here at Bradfords. It’s about playing to your strengths and everyone will pull together regardless of your gender or where you are in your career.

I think it’s important for those of us who have more experience in this sector to put our arms around the younger women starting out in the industry and show them what they can achieve. We need more visible role models of women who have made great careers for themselves in construction and need to work harder at sharing our experiences.”

Megan James, Showroom Sales Consultant at Bradfords’ Glastonbury branch, has recently completed her apprenticeship with distinction…

“I don’t see this as a man’s job at all. Some of my friends can’t believe I work in construction, but this isn’t any different to any other job in retail, for example.

And the customers don’t care – people understand that times have changed and it’s not just a male job.

I think there are more women in construction than there used to be, but I think some young women don’t see construction as something they could do. The think they’d just be doing an admin job. But I’d say just go for it. This is something I was interested in and wanted to learn about, so I took the chance and it’s amazing. Everyone is really accepting and helpful.

I started my apprenticeship at Bradfords just before the first Covid lockdown, so it wasn’t a typical experience, but everyone I’ve worked with, including the customers, have helped me learn. The older guys like to share their knowledge and help educate you, which creates a bond and I’ve really appreciated that.

I’ve grown so much in this job and I love it.”

David Young, CEO at Bradfords, adds:

“Construction remains a male-dominated industry, but it’s great to see how much that’s changing. There are so many exciting and rewarding career paths to choose from and we need motivated, driven people to help fill the skills gap we’re currently facing as a sector. With the right attitude and training, the opportunities are there for the taking.

At Bradfords, we encourage everyone – regardless of gender – to take advantage of these opportunities.”