‘Investment in gender diversity is good for any industry’

Martina Landhed, kbbreview100 member and design director at InStil Design in Oxfordshire, sees fewer women in the KBB sector than she would like and believes their unique perspectives often lead to greater creativity

Q: What’s been your experience as a woman in the KBB industry?

A: InStil Design has always been female-oriented. Until recently we only had one man in our small team. So, it only occurred to me how very male-dominant the KBB industry was when I attended national KBB exhibitions, conferences, award ceremonies, etc. On a handful of occasions, I have had sales reps, both visiting our showroom and at exhibitions, talking to my male staff as if I were a junior member of the team. I have also experienced gender discrimination on-site in the form of inappropriate comments and behaviour from male builders and installers. 

Q: What advice would you give to other women looking to emulate your success as a business owner?

A: Be passionate about what you do, love your customers and business, strive for perfection, be determined, and always look for solutions and never stop learning. Put systems and processes in place at the start. You should not be afraid of not knowing something, or for asking for advice and help.

As a designer, spend time to get the initial design brief right. It is important to establish if the client is the right client for your company by finding out what they want and establish a budget. Good design is time-consuming, so don’t waste it on people that just want to get ideas but have no intention of using your services. Create a design brief form that really helps you get as much relevant information from your client. Charge for design, make sure that you know your products and have in-depth knowledge about bathroom installations.

Q: Do you feel women are under-represented in the KBB industry? 

A: Yes, women are under-represented in the KBB industry. While we see female sales reps, they are still fewer than their male colleagues and in our supplier chain there are few women in higher management positions. In addition, there are few independent retailers within the KBB industry that are fully run by women. 

Research has shown that when people from different genders work together, their unique perspectives often lead to greater creativity. So yes, I believe that we all could benefit from more diversity in the KBB industry. I believe that investment in gender diversity in any industry is a good one. 

While we see female sales reps, they are still fewer than their male colleagues and in our supplier chain there are few women in higher management positions.

Q: How do you think the KBB industry as a whole would benefit from having more women in a variety of roles? 

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A: By most measures, the overall business community is becoming more supportive of women and of women’s importance in economy. This leads to a positive feedback loop – companies that support gender diversity will capture these benefits earlier, leading them to outlast their competitors.

Q: In your experience how do consumers – male and female – react to female designers? 

A: I have only positive experiences from both men and women. I feel they trust me.  

It is often the woman that have most input into the practicalities and design of the bathroom design, while male consumers need to know about products and technical specification to be satisfied. However, I believe that is more to do with the design skills and knowledge about products, rather than whether it’s a female or male designer. 

Q: Who do you find makes most of the decisions when it comes to the design and purchase of a kitchen or bathroom? 

A: I would say that it is often the female partner that makes most of the decisions when it comes to the design in around 80% of cases. But when it comes to the purchase decision, I would say it is 50:50. But as long as the design brief and budget have been met, they usually buy. 

Q: As one of the few women that holds a prominent role in the industry, do you feel you have a part to play in encouraging other women to pursue a KBB career? 

A: Perhaps to my immediate family with two daughters and friends. But I do not think I have a wider influence at this point in time. I do wish and hope I can be in a position to do this in the future, especially once we come out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Q: What do you think is the future of the KBB industry when it comes to diversity? 

A: Having in mind that the style/fashion/interior design side of the industry is more female-oriented, and that it is more often the women that make the final design decision when it comes to bathrooms and kitchens, the interest is definitely there and you would have thought that more women would be working within the KBB industry. 

More awareness and conversation on gender is surely a good thing, but to attract and develop more women in leadership roles within the industry requires company-wide change, driven from the top.

Listen to the International Women’s Day Special on The kbbreview Podcast.  on The kbbreview Podcast. Listen now using the player below or search ‘kbbreview’ in a podcast app.

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