Tourism Leaders Help Forge Gender Equality By Celebrating Women In ‘Tradesmen Roles’

‘Breaking the bias’ is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day campaign, and today, we check in with Lyons Holiday Park’s very own female ‘tradies’ who are proud and passionate about representing the female workforce in what’s considered a male-dominated sphere.

Survey results from a Go Compare found there has been a 366% increase in young females taking on apprenticeships in construction and engineering in the past five years.

Shelby Martin, 24, is the latest addition to the Lyons group’s maintenance department and is happiest when snagging caravans along the coast. According to this survey, this type of ‘handywoman’ role is only occupied by 0.66% of females in the UK, with plumbers, painters, and decorators taking up the top spots.

“It’s really hands-on stuff, traditionally ‘men’s jobs’ but it makes me feel empowered. I’ve always been into stuff like that though, I love using tools.”

Having grown up close to her uncle, and having ‘hung out with lads’ in school, this lover of the outdoors and DIY has never felt pressured into fitting into stereotypical moulds. She said: “I’ve never had to prove anything – I just do what I can to do my job.

“Even in college, I was the only girl, and I was never singled out. It’s just me. I’m more one of the lads really.”

The qualified mechanic carried this confidence and self-belief with her when she began her role as a maintenance technician at Lyons Holiday Parks. With over 400 employees, the fifth generation, family-run business is keener now more than ever to break the bias surrounding gender in the workplace, and maintain their stance as diverse, equitable and inclusive employers.

“There’s no better gender. We’re all equals,” Shelby added. “At Lyons, people don’t see me as a woman: they see a person.

“Trade jobs aren’t just exclusive to one gender. I’ve been working in a hands-on trade type role since I left school. It’s important that I’m treated like a human that matters to me.

“When I worked for a courier company, some of the managers saw gender and not the person. In the morning, when we were unloading the van, I would be picking up heavier parcels than the lads – I didn’t have to prove anything, but I could do as good a job as the lads.”

Shelby attributes this attitude towards women in the workplace as a “lack of education and understanding” as to what women are capable of, both physically and mentally. It’s now her goal to inspire other women to step up and follow their career dreams.

“I think a lot of women who work in the UK feel like they have to prove themselves, especially in male-dominated roles. It depends on the person. If you’re confident like I am, then I don’t think so, but I know a lot of women in roles like mine do feel like that.”

Breaking the bias surrounding gender-based roles is something Shelby feels proud of, especially when she tells people what she does for a living. “People are really surprised. I think it’s more the fact that you look like ‘that’ but are able to do the things I do.”

This is down to the stereotypes associated with being a woman, such as ‘attractive’ or ‘feminine,’ according to Shelby. She added: “But when I turn around and say I’m a qualified mechanic and qualified in land-based engineering, they’re shocked. That makes me proud, definitely. This is me; this is what I do. I know how to drive tractors, how to fix tractors, I’ve done ploughing, spread seeds on farms.”

“The goal is for more women to feel encouraged. The more women like me – in mechanic, maintenance, grounds, and farming jobs, even football or rugby – that come out and do what men have always thought of as their roles, the more we show that we are equal. There’s no better gender. We are equals. There is no stronger sex.”

Shelby’s message of female empowerment resonates with one of the youngest team members on the construction team, Caitlin Goddard, aged 20. We asked Caitlin what it’s like being the only woman on a male-dominated team to which she answered, “I come to work and do the same labouring, plaster boarding, digging, and guttering as the lads– I just happen to be a girl, that’s all.”

She explained: “The world has developed nowadays, and women are entitled to work where they want. I think some women still do feel judged that they can’t do the same job as a man – it’s the biggest challenge to women in the male-dominated workplace today.

The Manchester born former cleaner said the best thing about her job is that there are no limitations and feels as though she can do anything with the support of her manager, Gavin Taylor, who ‘treats me like one of his own.’

“I don’t get treated different by anyone though because I’m a woman. I’m just one of the team. They see me as ‘Kev’,” a nickname that Caitlin acquired during her time as a recruit on the DWP’s Kickstart scheme which aimed to tackle unemployment.

It’s this family-focused feeling that has enabled the 96-year-old company to grow from strength to strength, retaining over 70% of permanent team throughout the pandemic, and employing more cross-department female team members than any other private holiday park operator in Wales.

The groups mission statement, penned by the recently appointed Head of Operations, Nikki Rathie, promises to deliver the ‘Lyons family spirit’ across all departments.

The recent appointment of a female head of operations is further testament to the company’s evolution into a forward-thinking organisation which showcases female talent, helps call out gendered actions and assumptions, and maintains gender equality even in senior positions.

Caitlin – the ‘Queen’ of our building site

Last year, the group celebrated the fact that the majority of senior roles were occupied by women – and that figure is only growing with the recent appointment of Christina Bellis, park manager for Lyons Lido Beach and Lyons Mounds Holiday Park; Sarah Shaw, general manager for the Nant Hall in Prestatyn; Joan Matischok, hotel and bar manager at Lyons Woodlands Hall in Ruthin; Kat Williams, bar manager at Lyons Eryl Hall in St Asaph; Kelly Lees, complex manager at Lyons Robin Hood; Jackie Bruder, bar manager for Lyons Cabaret Club; Ailsa Morris, head of food and beverage for the Lyons group; and Amy Norris, head of marketing for the group.

Caitlin, the ‘cub’ who has now become the ‘queen’ of the Lyons building site, said this International Women’s Day: “I think women should be encouraged to step up and work in the jobs they want to. In ten years, I want to see more women on my team. I think that will happen; the world has come a long way. Back in the day, you’d never see a woman on a building site. But I’m here every day proving women can do anything they put their mind to.”