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Jobs for the boys – and girls

Nothing is more absurd than the practice of men and women not following the same pursuits with all their strengths and with one mind

When I first joined BMJ, way back when, I found myself in something of a minority.

Why? Well, because I was a girl.

This was way back in the dim and distance 1990s. Not that long ago in the great scheme of things, but long enough ago that I regularly used to find myself the only female at merchant events.

Back then, there were a few high-profile women in the industry but it wasn’t really seen as the sort of industry that ‘girls’ would like to work in.

How things have changed.

This year’s BMJ/BMF Young Achiever awards were won by two extremely talented young women – Magda Dexter of Saint Gobain’s Local Merchant Group and Jo Callow of Knauf Insulation – who have both contributed greatly to the growth and success of their respective businesses. And I attended a fabulous dinner on Friday night where the Worshipful Company of Builders Merchants’ first-ever female Master – Gill Moore – was congratulated on her installation as Master by the Lord Mayor of London, Fiona Woolf, only the second woman ever to have held the 800-year old post.

Of course, there is still massive gender inequality in the workplace and the world, as the magnificent Emma Watson told the UN far more eloquently than I can and this is by no means a feminist rant. It’s more of an acknowledgement that things have changed and that change is often to be welcomed.

Many of the merchants I talk to tell me that they are increasingly expanding the diversity of their workforce, to reflect the changing mix of their customers. A wide range of customers coming into the trade counter will identify with a wide range of employees behind the trade counter, whether it’s with traditional ‘builders banter’ (not always for the faint hearted!), or a retail customer wanting to feel comfortable about asking what they might think are silly questions.

The one thing you can always say about this industry is that it’s a people business and that’s why we all love it. People. Not men, not women but people. In all their diverse glory.

When I joined BMJ, someone described the industry to me as ‘a balding, middle-aged man’s game’. It was once. Now, maybe not so much. And that, girls and boys, is a jolly good thing.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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