Top women retailers have told kbbreview that they feel women are under-represented in the KBB industry but also see that attitudes towards diversity and gender equality are changing – albeit slowly.
Ros Wilson, a kbbreview Retail & Design Awards judge and founder of Roselind Wilson Design in London, told kbbreview: “Universally it feels like there is a gender revolution happening. This will see change, but it will be quite interesting to see how quickly, as traditionalism can resist change and we need to universally have a mind set change of stereotyping traditional job roles.”
She also echoed the opinions of many other female retailers kbbreview spoke to about the benefits and qualities that women can bring to the KBB industry.
Wilson said: “Being open to equality provides an expansion in the development of the design industry. The differing manners in which men and women approach design means that through an equal strategic direction, more is possible. More ideas, more solutions.”
Kelly Roden, fellow kbbreview100 member and owner of Meliora Kitchens, Bedrooms and Bathrooms in Sheffield, agreed on the need for balance: “I think every industry needs balance and perspective. It is no secret men and women have different strengths and weaknesses. I find women are less inclined to have time to be emotional and take offence – we are practical and organised by nature, we are creative and passionate. I truly believe there is nothing a man can do that a woman can’t – and vice versa.”
Martina Landhed, one of our kbbreview100 nationwide think tank of retailers and director of InStil Design in Oxfordshire, said she believes in the benefits of diversity: “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 and that investment in gender diversity in any industry is good.”
Many retailers pointed out that women bring different qualities and perspectives into the industry. Claire Algar, kbbreview100 member and founder of Rouse Bathrooms in Kent, said: “We get stuff done. We’re better multitaskers too. I think women bring more flair and finer attention to design detail. Having been quite isolated in a very male-dominated Bathstore world, and stepping out into my independent business, I have met so many wonderful women in the industry.”
Victoria Anderson, category manager at Elliotts Living Spaces in Lymington and one of our kbbreview100, broadly agreed, but added that employing the right people is also important. She said: “Balance is a good thing. Having women in a variety of roles would benefit the KBB industry because they may have a different approach, or see a problem in a different way. It is important, though, to be good at your job. There is no point in trying to increase female numbers in your team if they don’t have the right skills.”
What many recognised is that there is a shortage of females in certain roles, such as manufacturing, installation and product design.
Natalie Peters, kbbreview100 member and a designer at Kitchens Etc in Norfolk, said: “We need to see more women across all levels – there should be more females in manufacturing and installation and other historically male-dominated areas. We need to banish the stereotypes. More diversity and equality will only benefit the industry”
Ros Wilson agreed, saying: “I feel there is a stigma attached to men dominating technical roles or technical abilities, which means women appear more on the decorative or administration side of the industry. However, I really feel this is changing and has been for some time now as we see some strong leaders step into the light.”
Some of these concerns are shared by Rubina Hughes, owner of Zara Kitchens and a kbbreview100 member, who added: “I also suspect that not many women are involved in the development of products like kitchen furniture. I would be curious to know how products would evolve if women had more of an input into their development. Women should be visible in a variety of roles in the industry to bring a different perspective and a wider range of talent and skills. It would be more representative of our society and encourage more people to come into our industry.”
Parv Sangera, managing director of The Bathroom Showroom at Travis Perkins, acknowledged that the KBB industry has not always historically been attractive to women and believes in diversity and equal representation. She said: “There haven’t been policies and practices in place to support women, nor enough role models to demonstrate what is achievable. We need to get to a point where there is equal representation of men and women at all levels.
“Being a diverse business is about reflecting the communities we work in. I like to think the future is positive. We have a long way to go before we are truly diverse and inclusive, but I can see that things are changing. It’s about doing the right thing.”
Diane Berry, owner of Diane Berry Kitchens in Manchester, told kbbreview that she believed in the benefits of diversity in the industry and the need for ‘new blood’. She said: “We need diversity and this industry will benefit from any group of people that breaks away from a ‘suit’ saying yes and taking a deposit. They are the ones asking, ‘why do you always do a kitchen that way, maybe we could try something different?’ Let’s hope the honesty of new blood will help make our trade honest as well as diverse.”
Hayley Robson, kbbreview100 member and creative director, Day True, London, said she was looking forward to a diverse future: “I hope the KBB industry will become more diverse. As new generations come into our industry and older ones leave, it will only continue to evolve. The diversity is not just a male versus female perspective, I think diversity across all genders, ages and ethnicity is true diversity, and this will only inspire more creativity.”
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