‘Clients’ attitudes to female designers have changed massively over the years’

Tina Riley, kbbreview100 member and owner, Modern Homes, Leamington Spa talks about her career over the last 42 years.

This is a subject very dear to my heart and I’m really pleased to say that, after 42-plus years of working in the KBB world, things have changed massively for women. 

My initial memories of the KBB industry are being around eight years old and having to ‘help’ my dad [Danny MacCormack who founded Modern Homes in 1968] in the showroom in the late 1960s. I vividly remember being allowed to go with him to get supplies, as a ‘treat’. We used to travel in the van to Bill Landon & Sons in Hollywood in Birmingham to collect bathroom suites and kitchen units that Dad had sold. 

Two vivid memories of those trips have stuck with me. Firstly, I remember thinking that Hollywood in Birmingham was definitely not as exotic as it sounded and secondly, I remember being struck by the fact that – as the company name would suggest – the Bill Landon & Sons showroom and trade counter was populated by men only and that the only other female – Mrs Landon – appeared to be there only to make the tea. 

As I got older and more interested in joining the family business, I was asked to work in our showroom and, as I was coming into contact with very few female reps and installers, it soon became clear that the industry was pretty male-oriented. I can remember going on a dealer trip to Germany and being the only female in my cohort, out of around 20 dealers. 

Over the years, this has improved massively and now when our industry gathers for trade shows, industry awards events or conferences, I would say that occasionally women can actually be in the majority – which is fabulous to see.

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Clients’ attitudes to female designers have changed massively over the years, too. Many years ago, I would think nothing of being asked by male clients – and reps too to be fair – ‘is the boss in?’ This attitude has disappeared and although some female clients have always preferred to chat one-to-one with a female designer, the younger generation are perfectly happy just to have a good designer, regardless of gender. 

As to who makes the purchasing decision, this too has changed over time. These days, in my experience, it’s much more likely to be a completely joint decision, as couples tend to share the housework. That said, they do have very different thoughts when it comes to what they feel they need in the kitchen. Men tend to like gadgets whereas women are more interested in practicality – but they both have the final say. 

We have a huge responsibility to encourage women to join our industry, which is still perceived as male-dominated. I can honestly say I have loved my time in the industry. I’ve loved the challenges, from running a business and learning something new every day to seeing the changes in how society now lives and the impact that has on kitchen and bathroom design. 

Not to sound too trite, but I love knowing that we can, and do, make a massive difference to people’s lives. I can only hope that, by encouraging the younger generation – male and female – into our industry, the already massive change that has occurred during my career will continue to evolve. 

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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