Women in the waste industry – International Women’s Day 2018
It won’t come as a great shock to hear that the waste industry is largely male dominated but that just isn’t the case here at Fresh Start.
For International Women’s Day 2018 we want to celebrate the females who help our business tick and prove that gender is no barrier to success in a traditionally masculine sector.
However, just because we employ many more women than most waste management companies and are fully committed to providing equal opportunities, doesn’t mean that we discriminate against anybody. Indeed, we try to be as meritocratic as possible, which is championed by our CEO, Nicola McGrath:
“I believe that the best person should get the job irrelevant of gender. If you are hard-working, resilient and determined to succeed, it doesn’t matter what gender you are in any industry, including waste.”
Nicola co-founded Fresh Start in 2005 with her father and, after performing a variety of roles in the company, eventually worked her way up to the top of the ladder. But has having a female CEO changed the way that other waste firms view Fresh Start?
“It’s been interesting at times. However, from my dealings with other companies, the overall reaction has been extremely positive. In the end, if you lead by example and demonstrate the types of behaviours that you expect from others, people will respect you for it.”
One area in which women are dramatically under-represented is the most visible part of our field, the collection of waste.
While it’s still extremely unusual to see a woman on a collection round, Sarah Hobson is a HGV Class 2 driver, and has been at the helm of one of our wagons since November 2017.
“I drive a 28 tonne refuse vehicle collecting commercial waste from businesses around the Cheshire and Greater Manchester areas. No two days are the same and it can be challenging at times, especially recently with the adverse weather conditions, but I love it!”
Social convention often means that there can be puzzled reactions when someone takes up a career which isn’t deemed suitable for their gender, but Sarah says that her friends and family have been right behind her from the outset.
“Everyone was really pleased for me to get the job driving for Fresh Start. I put a lot of hard work in to getting where I am with my licence. It isn’t easy, but very fulfilling when the examiner tells you you’ve passed your test.
“It doesn’t bother me at all being the only female driver.” she continues, insisting that she doesn’t feel like a trailblazer, “I feel accepted by everybody and I’m not treated any differently to the male drivers. I hope that when women see another woman already in this role, it will inspire them and give them the confidence to try it for themselves.”
Back inside and our new Transport Manager, Kirsty Atherton, is midway through her first week in her new role, although it’s certainly not her first week at Fresh Start. “I’ve been in the waste industry for 17 years, 3 and-a-half of those here.”
“Fresh Start is much more inclusive than other waste companies, without a doubt. We have lots of women who work here and lots of women in prominent positions making a real difference to our company #TheseGirlsCan!!”
Having started off as an office junior when she was a teenager, Kirsty has seen the industry from lots of different angles. Turning her hand to everything from the sales department to working on a weighbridge, she says her heart has always been on the operational side of the business and was rewarded when Fresh Start opened their Preston depot.
“I was given the opportunity to become the Depot Manager, which I grabbed with both hands. I then took a year out to have my beautiful baby girl, and when I returned to work, Fresh Start yet again supported my passion for the industry and invested time and money into my development by putting me through my Transport Managers CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence).
“Now, I am responsible for around 45 drivers and drivers mates plus a team of 6 admin staff.”
She also has a few ideas up her sleeve as to how to get more women into the waste industry. “The stereotype of it being a ‘Man’s World’ needs to change. Personally, I would love to see more women coming forward for driving jobs. During my CPC I was horrified to find out the percentage of female drivers in the transport industry as a whole could be as low 2%.
“I really hope that during International Woman’s Day women read articles like this and it makes them more inclined to look at the more male dominated industries for a career, because Nicola, Sarah and I can guarantee – and have proven – that the opportunities are endless.”
Fresh Start’s support of women doesn’t begin and end in the workplace, though. We currently sponsor athlete Agnieska Gorzynska, the 2016 world arm wrestling champion.
“Agy’s manager is a family friend” says Nicola, “That’s how I first became aware of the sponsorship opportunity. We’ve supported her for the last three years and our latest vehicle in the fleet is named after her.
“We don’t have any further sponsorship plans at the moment; one world champion is enough for now!”
It’s back to our CEO for more information about women wanting to embark on a career in waste. Specifically, what kind of roles are available?
“The waste industry needs to make it clear that there are no barriers to enter this field. As well as being out on the road, jobs in the sector include working in operations, sales, marketing, finance, H&S/compliance, administration and management.”
Here at Fresh Start, we are fully behind International Women’s Day and want to encourage more females to work within the waste industry.