Blakedale | 5 top tips for succeeding as a woman in a ‘male dominated’ sector
As HighwaysIndustry.Com look back on 2020 it’s fair to say that it’s been a rather unconventional year.
Prolonged periods of time indoors due to unprecedented circumstances and unforeseen obstacles have conspired to break the mould of what we have previously taken for granted as “normal”.
We’ve all been challenged and required to adapt, and it led us to think about other scenarios where people may have had to face challenges and obstacles that they had perhaps never envisaged.
We reached out to Blakedale MD, Carmen Bowley, now a 20-year stalwart of the highways sector and a woman who started off as the sole employee of her company and now sits proudly as the MD.
With the highways sector traditionally perhaps being seen as ‘male dominated’ we thought it would be a great opportunity to speak with Carmen and delve into the secrets of adapting to break the mould, and subsequently, succeeding as a female in the industry.
Over recent years we’ve seen more doors open for women within companies in the highways sector, with female trailblazers working in road lining and traffic management to name just two areas of the industry that now provide careers to females that may previously have seemed off limits.
As something of a trailblazer herself, we asked Carmen about her thoughts on the best pieces of advice she could offer on thriving and succeeding as a woman in what for many years has been seen as a man’s world:
“When I was asked by Highways Industry to offer some insight and tips for females entering the sector, and in particular, perhaps the non-traditional female roles within the sector, it really made me think and reflect on my 20 years in this industry.
“Firstly, although it is perhaps a male dominated industry, not for one minute of the last 20 years have I ever felt my gender is a disadvantage.
“I went to an all-girls school where we were inspired with the ethos that we could achieve anything we wanted in life if we applied ourselves and that regardless of gender, being good at what you do is the key issue.”
As a roadmap of inspiration, below are 5 key pieces of advice from Carmen herself after 20 years in the industry:
Top Tip 1: “Don’t feel you have to act like a man.”
CB: “You absolutely don’t. In my experience, women who make this mistake can often appear both aggressive and hostile and it detracts from their professional persona.”
Top Tip 2: “Keep your ego in check.”
CB: “Acknowledge and appreciate that if you are successful it is almost certainly because other people have contributed to your success. In my case that includes staff, clients and a very supportive husband, family, and an inspirational Mother.
Top Tip 3: “Don’t be a misandrist” (i.e. the opposite of a misogynist)
CB: “We all have our parts to play. Men and women are equal, but different.
“Some of the best mentors I have had in my working life have been men. I attribute some of my own ‘success’ to having learnt valuable lessons from these men.
“As long as we are all playing to our strengths, gender is irrelevant.”
Top Tip 4: “Roll your sleeves up, prove yourself and don’t expect success to be given to you”
“Had you asked me 20 years ago on my first day in this industry where I saw myself in 5, 10 or 20 years I would have had no clue!
“Increasingly, young job seekers coming for interviews can seem a little overly pre-occupied with the opportunity for progression. In my experience, proving that you’re hard-working as well as capable and competent in the role is the best way to achieve career progression.
“Whilst I admire ambition, I would suggest that getting the job first, proving one’s worth with diligence, hard work and efficiency will more often than not, lead to the progression that most people seek.”
“Naturally, this isn’t limited to females in the sector, but advice I would give to anybody entering the industry.”
Top Tip 5: “Stay focused and retain some humility”
“The last piece of advice I would offer, again not just to young women, but to all striving to achieve within our
sector is to stay focused and unpretentious.
“The world seems to revolve around social media in 2020, and whilst I absolutely acknowledge some of its benefits, I’m increasingly worried by the detrimental effects I see on people as a result of its growing prevalence.
“It can be a very useful tool, but all too often it is a distraction, and used as a platform for boasting, self- aggrandisement, and overt shows of self-importance.
“In the workplace and in this sector in particular, my experience is that customers, the life-blood of any business, value quality, attention to detail and efficiency above throwing bouquets at yourself on social media!”