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Building roles for women in the merchant sector.


Reflections For International Women’s Day from MKM

For International Women’s Day, Hull-based MKM Building Supplies is taking a look at the experience of the women in its ranks. These women are seeking to dispel some of the myths, and to inspire others who may be considering a career in the merchant industry.

MKM’s Linda Clarke, marketing and digital director and winner of Barclays Yorkshire Businesswoman of the Year award, is challenging perceptions of the roles available and aiming to shape the sector into a place where everyone can flourish.

Speaking about the women within MKM, she said: “The females within our business contribute tremendously to our success.  Their roles in sales as business drivers, sales representatives, desk salespeople and in admin, are critical to success.

“Their dynamism, ability to build relationships with customers and their sheer grit when it comes to making things happen, are all major contributors to a top performing branch.”

Shelley Walduck, a sales representative at MKM said: “It’s a shame that in 2018 we are still talking about women in certain roles. It’s more about women having the self-belief and the desire for the subject to put themselves forward.”

MKM’s heavyside product manager, Deborah Cobb said: “Personally, I’m not sure people in the builders’ merchant industry are too bothered if you are male or female, as long as you do a great job.”  She suggests that the barriers we need to address are those felt or experienced by the individual, adding: “In order to encourage more women into our industry, we need to provide strong female role models. Gender does not and should not define us, nor should it prevent us from succeeding in our chosen career path.”  

So how do we encourage women to see these roles are here for them and support them in aiming for them? At MKM they firmly believe we must shout about positive experiences, share and discuss challenges and celebrate the successes of those already in such roles.

Sophia Roe, MKM product manager believes it can feel intimidating for women to break into male-dominated industries, however, she said: “ The women are at MKM are assertive, strong and proof that females are equally capable.”

The Merchant industry is fast-paced and growing more competitive every day. As MKM grows, so does the range of careers, so it is important to educate people; we must start to shake off outdated preconceptions of what the Builders’ Merchant sector is and offers; as a flourishing industry in its own right, the breadth of roles that are waiting for the right candidate, span a huge range of positions.

Top 30 under 30 nominee Jenny Fussey works in HR – which in a national business of MKM’s size, is both equally rewarding and demanding. She said: “MKM is, and has always been a more male dominated organisation, however being in the HR department I get to see that as we grow in size we are also seeing more and more women delivering immense value to the business. It’s important for young women to look to companies such as MKM and see how women, as well as men, are making a real success within the industry.”

MKM recognises that the balance is key. The need to ensure diversity means looking beyond gender, age, culture and within this mix seek out the best examples of experience, innovation and creativity. However with International Women’s Day bringing female counterparts to the fore, it’s worth noting that it has been said time and again that women deliver ‘emotional intelligence’ (EI) to roles; this is hugely beneficial in the creation of a stable and enjoyable workplace culture (key for productivity and therefore success). Couple EI with the massive spending power held by women in this country, it makes sense to tap into the ways in which women think, manage and spend when working in a competitive business such as MKM.

Joanne Thomas, a business development manager said: “Empowerment, drive, tenacity and pro activity are the keys to success in my opinion. If we are able to attract those attributes as well as the so-called softer skills; we will continue to succeed.”

It’s no secret that the builders’ merchant industry is still heavily male dominated. However, with the right drive and attitude, these women want it to be known that opportunities do exist to thrive and make a career. Progress has been made to increase female representation – but so much more can be done.

Rachel Waugh, head of marketing added: “We need to make sure we keep communicating that women should not hesitate in becoming part of this industry; we are making waves in all aspects and increasingly our voices are valued as we demonstrate our drive and determination to getting a job done well.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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