Women involved in the stone industry are invited to The Counting House
The stone industry does tend to be male dominated and it is still not uncommon when a woman is involved for her to be the only female in the room. That’s why Women in Natural Stone (WINS) has been formed and why it is inviting all women to stand up and be counted at The Counting House in London on 15 June.
WINS was formed to create an opportunity for women involved in the natural stone industry and wider architectural and construction sectors to connect, as well as being role models to encourage the next generation of women into construction.
WINS was officially launched at the Landscape Show in the NEC, Birmingham, in November last year. It had a stand at the show and gave a presentation. It received an enthusiastic welcome from many of the visitors, both male and female.
Since then its members have held several video conferences and now they plan to meet face-to-face in the splendid surroundings of The Counting House in Cornhill in the City of London on the evening of 15 June. WINS invites all women in the stone industry and those who work closely with it to join them for networking, drinks and canapes.
Any woman who would like to be involved in the WINS meeting on 15 June at The Counting House, in Cornhill in the City of London (EC3V 3PD), starting at 6pm, email [email protected] to register your interest.
WINS is currently co-chaired by Becca Cranfield, a Director of Athena Stonecare, and Tamsin Pickeral, Operations Director of Szerelmey and the company's first female director.
WINS was formed by Stone Federation in partnership with its members but for the benefit of the whole sector, so is open to Federation members and non-members and is free to join.
The aim of the meeting on 15 June is to bring together the current WINS members for the first of many networking events and to introduce the group to potential new members. There has already been an enthusiastic response to the invitation but there's room for more.
Tamsin says: “The intention with WINS is to provide a networking and support group for women in the industry in the first place, and to see how the group grows, develops and evolves, to hopefully be able to offer mentoring and to host events, presentations and so on.”
The point of formalising the meeting of women into a group, says Tamsin, is that “human nature is drawn to a group and having a group gives it structure so things get done”.
She continues: “It is fundamentally a positive group born out of positivity in the industry, recognising the opportunities for women and championing them – it has not developed from negativity.”
Becca joined her husband as Co Director of Athena Stonecare four years ago and it was a long time before she met another women in the industry. “This isn’t a group of women getting together to bemoan or begrudge being in a male dominated sector, it’s getting together to make our lives a bit easier. When I was brand new to this industry I would have loved to be able to meet Tamsin and ask her for her advice. As a woman, it’s easy to pick up the phone to another woman and say let’s have a cup of coffee. Women quite naturally collaborate very well. The point of a women-focussed group is that it’s needed.”
Neither Becca nor Tamsin say they have been targeted for particular abuse as women and Tamsin says that attitudes in the industry towards women have changed significantly over the past decade for the better.
But both Tamsin and Becca say there is still a way to go, and efforts need to be made to make the construction industry more appealing to women. There are still banker and machine shops where photographs of naked women are stuck on the walls, which can be intimidating for women entering that environment.
Becca: “There absolutely is sexism in many parts of the construction industry. As women, we tend to brush it off and say ‘it happens’. But by doing that it’s almost condoning it. And it can make you doubt your own expertise. I think that’s a very real experience for a lot of women and it impacts your self-esteem.”
Tamsin puts it this way: “Women are a minority in this industry and it’s important for us to establish a network of like-minded people we can talk to about work or anything else.
“I do think the attitude towards women in the industry has become so much better over the years and there are far more women in positions of authority now – we have a really good opportunity to make waves.”
In her own experience on the Board of Szerelmey she says it can be useful to add the perspective of a women to discussions. “I hope the rest of the Board would agree with me. It’s been great to be able to influence decisions that affect everyone.”
She says interest in the WINS meeting on 15 June has spread beyond the immediate stone industry. “I was very keen for WINS to be open to the wider construction industry… as long as they have had something to do with stone… and people who have expressed an interest in coming to The Counting House are from a wider background. I think it’s going to be a really good evening.”
The event is open to any women involved with natural stone, including those on the architecture and design side.