BLOG: Celebrating the Women of Siderise – International Women’s Day 2021 | News | SIDERISE

BLOG: Celebrating the Women of Siderise – International Women’s Day 2021

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day 2021 when the world celebrates the achievements of women and looks at ways to accelerate gender parity. This year’s theme is ‘Choose to Challenge’, and focuses on challenging gender stereotypes, gender bias and inequality. It is no secret that the construction industry has a gender disparity and one of the ways we can begin to change this and attract more young women to our industry is by shining the spotlight on those already thriving within it. 

We sat down (remotely!) with five of our incredible managers to learn more about their journey to Siderise and the invaluable contributions they are making to both our business and construction industry as a whole: 

 

Rhiannon Phillips – Technical Services Manager 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey to your current role at Siderise 

I was appointed at Siderise in 2008. Coming from an Operational /Business Services background, I joined the internal team as a sales agent which progressed into a supervisory role. Being a smaller family run business back then, my time in this role allowed me to build my knowledge of the company and how it operates. Which enabled me to build strong relationships within the industry. My aspiration to have a greater understanding of our products and how they influence the construction market, led me to ask questions like ‘why’ and ‘how’ we do what we do. After developing my knowledge, I joined the Siderise Technical Services team of engineers which developed into my current role of Technical Services Manager.  

Have you experienced gender stereotyping or discrimination in your career and how have you overcome it? 

When I joined Siderise it was a male dominated workforce and a male dominated construction industry. Discrimination is not something that I have experienced in my workplace, however it has been exposed, many times in the industry, by various authority levels. Stereotyping can affect people from many backgrounds not just the female gender, we may not be able to avoid stereotyping completely, but to overcome them we need to consider how they influence our thoughts and feelings and how they affect our actions. To overcome stereotypes, my suggestions would be to remain calm, be mindful of your tone and temperament, don’t instantly overreact, be yourself, be firm, be confident and remember the task ahead. There will always be humour in the industry, it is a great asset, but know the difference between the two! 

What stereotypes do you see still existing within the industry and why do they need to be challenged?  

Stereotypes still exist in the industry but the phenomenon of women being restricted to certain roles within the industry has changed, we see a lot more women representatives in managerial positions. Stereotypes can obstruct people’s ability to execute their potential, so I believe bringing awareness to the cause is essential. Speak of your experiences, eradicate cliches and their associated behaviours, share your views with others, and listen to their opinions. Educate people how to identify stereotyping in themselves and others.  

There is still a discrepancy in the percentage of men vs women choosing careers in construction and manufacturing – what are some of the benefits/opportunities of working in the industry that you would highlight to other women?  

There are many diverse roles and responsibilities in the construction and manufacturing industry which in turn offer a variation of benefits and opportunities. The industry provides great steppingstones for professional progression. For a woman wanting to develop their career possibilities I would suggest a touch of self-esteem, ambition, expectation, and humility. Expose the characteristics and skills you have, don’t be afraid to assert yourself.   

What’s the best thing about your job?  

I have an amazing team of skilled engineers (all male) who are very supportive and share the same vision and dedication and goals.  The construction and manufacturing industry is fast paced and always evolving, which brings versatility. As a team, we can contribute our experiences and skills to the market. We provide unique services to the industry and to be a part of that process is very rewarding. My role can be very challenging on times, but this pushes me to my best potential, which offers a great sense of accomplishment once these challenges are overcome.   

 

Rachel Wintle – Finance Manager 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey to your current role at Siderise 

I studied Business & Finance at Swansea University and after graduating I “fell” into my dream role at the Welsh Rugby Union as an Assistant Accountant. This was where I really started to learn about the dark arts of Finance! The Finance team was small & close knit, which meant that I got to see all aspects of Finance and helped to prepare the accounts from start to finish. It was an invaluable learning experience, where my managers supported me and constantly fed my desire to develop. I left the WRU with a heavy heart and the sadness of knowing I would have to pay to go to the rugby games & concerts in the future, but I had gained so much experience and knowledge and was ready for the next step in my career.  

After a brief stint in the Aviation industry (I hate flying), I moved to work with a global steel manufacturer. This was the toughest role of my career, at that point in time they were losing money daily, it was sprawled all over the news and morale was at its lowest, staff would walk out and never come back. I gave it my all for a few years but there was no room for progression and so I took the plunge into my final role before Siderise, which was in the Pharmaceutical industry.  

This role I found highly rewarding, knowing that, in some six degrees of separation way, I was contributing to scientific breakthroughs and the development of life saving drugs & treatments. For me, I never find the numbers quite enough and enjoy knowing that little bit more. Like my previous roles, there was very little opportunity to grow and I felt that my time had been spent.  

Forever chasing the next step up, as if by magic, the chance arose for me to apply for the role as Finance Manager at Siderise. I thought if I don’t go for this then I may not get another break. I was successful and joined the team during the first lockdown in May 2020. In the strangest of times, Siderise has given me ambition, focus & new friends! 

Have you experienced gender stereotyping or discrimination in your career and how have you overcome it?  

I have experienced gender discrimination on 2 occasions in my career. Both affected me very differently. In my first experience, my instinct was to just walk away, pretend it never happened and avoid the issue completely. In my second experience I didn’t want to walk away but I felt powerless, it massively hit my confidence. I doubted my own capability and for a while I allowed it to impact on not only my work life but my personal life. Eventually I plucked up the courage to speak out and was supported by senior managers and my peers. The confidence started to come back, and I am now more than ever, aware of my worth, ability and skills. 

What stereotypes do you see still existing within the industry and why do they need to be challenged?  

Having worked in a diverse range of industries, from Sports to Aerospace to Pharmaceuticals & Manufacturing, none of these areas have been particularly female led. There is an element of gender stereotyping within the Finance sector in general and so to progress as a female in Finance is difficult enough. The Construction industry is fairly new to me, but it is recognisable the amount of male contacts I have compared to females and also their levels within their businesses. It is refreshing to see so many female managers within the Siderise team and I feel that we all bring something different and a little bit of balance!  

There is still a discrepancy in the percentage of men vs women choosing careers in construction and manufacturing – what are some of the benefits/opportunities of working in the industry that you would highlight to other women?  

Anyone has the right to be considered for a role if they have the required qualities, knowledge & skills. I do feel that the right person or fit is important and due to the number of men within the industry it is understandable why women may be put off applying for these roles. The industry is growing, its fast paced & exciting. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?! There is massive opportunity for growth and development, the industry is constantly evolving and with that comes new learning opportunities.  

What’s the best thing about your job?  

The people! Siderise has an amazing “family” feel about it. The fact that I joined remotely and still have not met half of the staff but can still say that Siderise has the best kind of people is truly amazing. As much as I love spreadsheets and all things numbers, the best part of my job is interacting with people to get to the detail behind the numbers. I am so looking forward to our Summer Christmas Party when I can finally meet everyone face to face! 

 

Emma Jeremy – ERP Project Manager 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey 

My personal journey really stemmed from my love of Design - I loved the process of the design elements too, all the problem-solving elements, the research, design concepts, building prototypes and user testing. So, I decided that was what I wanted to pursue, I wanted to go to university to study Product design and I loved every single moment of it. With the course being part of ‘The School of Industrial Engineering`, many of my classes where combined with the Automotive Engineering course – meaning the balance between men and women was not there. There were 5 women and approximately 60 men, but over the years I have noticed that more and more women have taken the course. 

I was fortunate enough that gender was not an issue in that environment and I never experienced any form of stereotyping. Even in the workshop environment with my purple safety boots (all size 3 of them), we just got on. Although my experience was positive, it was clear from the lack of female students that the course was generally known as male environment. It is difficult to say if this perception contributes to the lack of women in this industry.  

How did you get to your position in Siderise? 

I started within the Internal sales team. I got to know the products and began to build up a basic technical understanding of the products and the applications that they were used in. I was able to learn a great deal about the products and internal processes from this role, but I wanted even more. I was open to the business that I was looking to progress and to utilise my skills and strengths developed from my past experiences and from there my new journey began. Speaking out really benefited me as my superiors were not fully aware of my full background and my earliest experiences. Being the type of person who does not often talk about themselves, I was unknowingly playing my skillset down and only giving a preview of these extended skills when an opportunity or challenge occurred within my team/department.  

I was given a great opportunity to be our ERP Project Manager and co-manage the implementation of our new internal ERP system. With a process and detailed mindset, I was really in my element. With a team full of diverse skillsets, the project was a success. We implemented on the tightest of deadlines, during a global pandemic, in a virtual environment but as a team we did it. It was amazing to be part of such a big project for the business.  So, with the success of this project I was then offered another great opportunity to become the Project Manager for all our larger projects going forward. A role which I have just began and am excited to pursue.  

All in all, my journey with Siderise has been an exciting one and yet I am still at the beginning of the road. The support provided during a difficult time (globally) has been outstanding and it is so encouraging that the business has maintained growth. Siderise provide great opportunities for growth, whether you are male or female. Yet I am proud to be part of the female growth within the manufacturing and construction industry.  

What’s the best thing about your job?  

For me it is being part of an amazing team and being part of the ever-expanding “family”. I am so proud to be part of the success and growth of the business. There are always opportunities to progress and grow within the company. To which internal progression is encouraged, and the family run atmosphere really gives you that support during that new journey. We all bring different qualities, skills and styles to the team and I believe that that Siderise really focuses on that diversity. Male or Female, our combined diversity is the forefront of success. 

 

Ffion Edwards – CRM Manager 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey to your current role at Siderise 

I joined Siderise as a Customer Service Team Leader in September 2019. During this unprecedented time, I have developed alongside the company, moving into a CRM Manager position. I feel the company has utilised my skills at every given opportunity, which has also seen the development of a new proactive internal sales department.  

Have you experienced gender stereotyping or discrimination in your career and how have you overcome it? 

I previously worked in the motor trade and sales, both which are frequently male dominated. This was sometimes a challenge, for example I have been offered chaperones to meetings and was told in the motor trade that they mainly hire female front office staff, “as people are less likely to get angry with women”. I attempted to normalise women fulfilling roles in these fields and question the reasoning or statistics behind these decisions at every given opportunity, in the hopes that we can change these stigmatising opinions and cultures. 

What stereotypes do you see still existing within the industry and why do they need to be challenged?  

Sales is usually still seen as a masculine department. However, at Siderise, we have expanded our internal sales team to manage and support our future and current project pipeline, which has balanced our commercial department and bridged the gender gap.  

There is still a discrepancy in the percentage of men vs women choosing careers in construction and manufacturing – what are some of the benefits/opportunities of working in the industry that you would highlight to other women?  

During the pandemic, Siderise have been extremely supportive of both their customers and employeesActually hiring for newly formed positions during such a difficult time is phenomenal, including developing our Commercial, Customer Service, Technical, Marketing, Quality and HR departments. 

What’s the best thing about your job?  

I absolutely love the progressive culture, the freedom to agree and disagree with my colleagues for the sake of a common goal. The close-knit family ethos that Siderise promotes and practices. From our customers to our employees, there is integrity in all that we do.  

 

Marketing Manager – Helen Massay 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey to your current role at Siderise 

I had worked within the building products manufacturing sector for 8 years prior, in various regional marketing management roles. Having been in B2B marketing for my near 17-year long career, working with engineered products and services is a honed skill. I had been aware of Siderise in the passive fire solutions and insulation industry through my previous role and knew them to be an agile and forward-thinking company in terms of their product proposition and collaborative engagement in the market. 

Have you experienced gender stereotyping or discrimination in your career and how have you overcome it? 

In my professional experience, in construction and manufacturing spheres my colleagues have in the significant majority been male, outside of the marketing function. In earlier days, there was the frequent assumption that I was present in meetings to take the minutes rather than to contribute on a strategic level. The huge and significant disruption in the Marketing discipline in the past decade with the explosion of social and digital media has played a key part in exposing the true scientific nature of marketing to all. From the antiquated ‘Bridget Jones’ movie definition of the girl who "f*nnies about with the press releases", and marketers who play a passive role in promotion from the corner of a room, to today where, as recognised professionals, we’re very much more visible, active and engaged in further reaching commercial activity than ever before. Attention is certainly seized by knowing who, how and what to say through the right channel, at the right time, to make a crucial impact on sales, service uptake and brand. 

As a mixed-race female in this industry, I am often unique in the business setting. As a result of wider societal influences and events, I do introspectively question whether gender or racial discrimination has played a part in the path I have navigated thus far, however I am pleased to say I have no direct experience of discrimination. I have found that the use of distasteful and discriminatory terminology in the workplace has declined significantly in recent years, even in humour thanks to increasing discussion and example of what is and is not appropriate. People fearing discrimination are feeling more at ease to, and empowered to challenge what inequity could face them, but work still needs to be done. The process to push back against any kind of discrimination needs to be more transparent in every sector, discipline, and business and without repercussion. 

What stereotypes do you see still existing within the industry and why do they need to be challenged?  

Stereotypes still exist in construction and manufacturing for both men and women. The idea that these could be low-skilled jobs is still perpetuated in places. Whereas from the inside of industry, we see growing skills shortages posing significant questions about competency and workmanship in the products and services offered in the sector. There remains a sense of undesirability to work in construction or manufacturing in terms its lack of promotion as a viable and dynamic career to those of school age looking for ideas for their future professions and I feel this applies acutely to girls. 

There is still a discrepancy in the percentage of men vs women choosing careers in construction and manufacturing – what are some of the benefits/opportunities of working in the industry that you would highlight to other women?  

I believe that there could be an unchallenged correlation for women to think that the numbers of women they might see working on a construction site (i.e. next to none) is perhaps reflective of those working in the overall industry. The industry as a whole is so much more than just the action you see on an active build site. Additionally, the perception that manufacturing is exclusively heavy, noisy machinery in unclean environments and not meticulous engineered and precision processes today’s excellence standards demand. But there is little in the media or career-shaping practices to highlight this.  

Construction and manufacturing, for me as marketer, offers just the same opportunity, challenge and excitement as it would if I was building a cosmetics brand or was part of a commercial process to sell fashion or food. Women should look to their skills and passions, apply those skills to a vocation and widen their horizons to the places within which they can apply and maximise those skills, and it might not be where you first thought. Marketing is in a really exciting period of growth and transformation. I mentioned the disruption of digital and social media, having benchmarked good performance in those areas now we make gentle incremental improvements, but what is next? What could be the impact of more widespread use of AI for marketing in all sectors? How will we leverage the intelligence and insight gained through true IoT interconnectivity of buildings; safety, energy use, wellbeing and so much more.  

Manufacturing and Construction sectors need women in Sales and Business development, Finance, Human Resources, I.T., Product Management, Marketing, Technical disciplines and so much more. But if you want to build walls, operate heavy machinery there’s opportunity for you too. 

I strongly believe that the balanced participation of men and women in professional surroundings enhances activity, decision making and outcomes and the more women we can encourage to the Manufacturing and Construction sectors the richer it will become in terms of its profitable outputs. 

What’s the best thing about your job?  

I am surrounded by an ambitious and driven team who actively help me to develop personally as well as professionally. I have the autonomy to make decisions and the support to help see these commitments through. I have fantastic connectivity with all departments within the business and the culture of collaboration and challenge at Siderise, among colleagues, peers and the managerial structure alike, is so transparent it makes for a truly constructive and engaged environment.