International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Lynne Jhangeer, LINIAN Sales and Export Director and Women in Construction Ambassador, reflects on her experiences working in a male-dominated industry and the inspirational women who have paved the way for her.
Here at LINIAN, we set out and embrace a culture where gender balance, appreciation and championship of both genders are openly promoted and infectious throughout our team. It has been this way since the beginning and not because it ticked a box or was the “right thing to do” but because we naturally treat each other equally and with respect.
This means that our board is completely 50/50 balanced in gender and the ladies in our team outweigh the number of men at LINIAN HQ. It was not intentional that it worked out this way but it came to be through a genuine belief that each member of the team, male or female, contributes to the evolution of the LINIAN brand and business in a vital way with the right people for the job and no bias on who places into the role. We have females in executive roles within marketing, production and sales.
This culture has always existed in our family and in our mindset beginning with both of my grandmothers and leading out through my aunts and my own mother, who co-founded LINIAN back in 2006. Women in my family are strong, intelligent, challengers for growth, pioneers for equality and have always worked and balanced their family life throughout the generations. Today is no different.
When my grandmother, Patricia, started our Electrical Wholesaling business with my grandfather in 1984 she really led the way in championing female equality within the industry and demonstrated notable success in business strategy and operations. During the tough times, she was a steady influence and guided the business through many times of change whilst supporting the family through the same. In good times she encouraged a positive culture based on reward and enjoyment for the team. She was well respected by her male colleagues or buyers at companies like James Scott, Balfour Kilpatrick and BAE systems as it’s now known but demonstrated the same respect and courtesy back to the people that she was always dealing with. Equal opportunities extended to her were based on mutual respect even in those early days. Her personality, perseverance and determination led to her breaking down the barriers of what was expected at that time and she set precedent for my mother to join the business when myself and Ian were just babies and then in turn for me to enter this male-dominated environment when I was just seventeen as a junior sales representative in 2001.
As a young woman in construction at that time in Glasgow there were not a lot of women out on the road and calling into building sites to ask for work selling containment, nuts, bolts and washers but there I was. What I will say is, that aside from the usual banter about me being lost and wandering onto site by mistake or asking if my car tyres needed changed, I loved it and embraced it. I fought hard to become reputable and to quickly get to grips with the technical aspect of the job knowing the product ranges inside and out. Then again, anyone entering this industry would have to be able to do that whether they were male or female in order to succeed wouldn’t they?
I have to say that I was very lucky that I was shown respect from the minute that I entered our industry by most, not all, even when I moved into other roles to broaden my horizons and spread my wings. I learned quickly and was determined to show that I was as technical as the next guy. That being said, even as I progressed through my career, there were still roadblocks in the way for younger ladies like me who didn’t quite make the promotion in case I got married or pregnant and was overlooked for ideas and input into strategy because it was too “touchy-feely and wumminy”. That is taken from actual minutes within a meeting, I kid you not.
Some people haven’t been as lucky as I have unfortunately and there is undoubtedly still progress to be made. The industry today is very different, even to when I joined, but the number of women in construction and manufacturing is becoming more “normal” and that can’t be a bad thing. We’re not there yet but with time the future can be even more promising. One day and one open mind at a time we can encourage diversity and less bias within our industry to achieve great things. I hope to see even more progress in 2020 and beyond not just on International Women’s Day, but every day.