Employers need to take harassment more seriously, say female installers

Michelle Daniels (left) director of marketing for BiKBBI, asking Olivia Weaver (middle) and Sophie Maguire (right) about their experiences as female installers

Speaking at InstallerSHOW, female installers argued that employers need to do more to encourage women to feel safe and supported in the installation sector.

Speaking at the Kitchen of the Future theatre yesterday, Olivia Weaver, installer at Harrison James, and Sophie Maguire, apprentice plumber, were asked what employers taking on new or apprentice female installers need to do to make them feel supported.

Maguire believes that although everyone should expect a degree of lighthearted humour on a job site, there needs to be processes in place for female installers to speak up if they become uncomfortable.

She said: “There’s definitely a balance – you do need to become thick skinned, you do need to expect a bit of banter, but when you feel like it’s gone too far, you need to be able to go to your own boss and feel okay to tell them if and when things make you uncomfortable, or if you think something has happened that’s inappropriate.”

Reflecting on her past experiences, she continued: “I’ve worked on sites before where things have happened, and I’ve told my boss that I’m not comfortable working there and I was still sent back. That’s something that then takes the love away from the job. You’re then always thinking ‘who’s behind me? What are they doing? Am I going to be safe on the job site?’.

“For employers, it’s having that understanding that my boundaries might be a bit different than the boys that I’m working with, but just because they’re different doesn’t mean they’re invalid. Employers could be a bit more empathetic and understanding.”

When asked about why they didn’t think there were more female installers, Weaver said she believed that a major factor was preconceived ideas about women and pregnancy.

Talking from experience, she explained: “I’d left the business, relocated, was pregnant, and I was trying to actually get into the retail side of it, and there was a big blocker there because nobody wanted to employ me when I was pregnant.

“You get all these interview questions about the baby. My husband at time was also working, and I know he wasn’t getting questions like that. I don’t think there’s enough push on saying that actually that doesn’t matter – you can still be a mum and work hard in this industry.

“There’s still a lot of people in the industry who think like that, and I think that’s mostly coming from the older generation. I’ve found that the younger generation are a lot more willing to help, and if you’ve experienced anything that’s not right, or you’ve found something more, they’re more likely to help you.

In related news, kitchen designer Sandy Armitage recently spoke to kbbreview about why there are so few female installers in the KBB sector.

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