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HPM-12-DEC-2016

24 B U S I N E S S F E ATURE Breaking stereotypes HPM’s Bethan Grylls talks to ex British Gas engineer Natasha Clark-Withers about her new online directory devoted to tradeswomen and how she intends to revolutionise In an ever-advancing world, it seems a shame that stereotypes still linger. The trades industry is one of those that still has preconceived ideas attached to it, with the majority of the workforce still predominately male. However, 32-year-old, ex British Gas engineer, Nastasha Clark-Withers, intends to put a stop to this, through the creation of her business, Get Her Trade. “We’re the UK’s only – at the moment – dedicated tradeswomen directory,” Natasha said. “It’s free for tradeswomen to sign up and free for the consumer to use.” Inspired by her experiences as an engineer, Natasha hopes her new online service will help to not only promote female tradeswomen, but ‘revolutionise’ this male dominated industry. A great platform “Get Her Trade is a great platform to promote tradeswomen. So many people have said, ‘I would really love to have an all female team in my house,’ and the tradeswomen love that they can advertise on a site that is dedicated to them, with customers that want them in the house,” she said. However, starting a revolution was not always on the agenda for Natasha. She did in fact, study for a multi-media degree in university. “I fell into engineering,” Natasha admitted. “I really wanted to get into film and TV. I tried it for a few years and nothing was sticking or getting paid. So I went through The Times’ top 25 companies to work for, and British Gas came up. I started an apprentice with it, and I was there for six years. It was great and I wish I had done it when I was 18.” Through this work, Nastasha noticed that she would frequently be greeted with a shocked reaction. “You’d get either ‘oh I didn’t realise girls did this’ or ‘I love this – I would love a female electrician or plumber or plasterer – I didn’t even know you guys existed.’” Despite the initial surprised reactions, Natasha explained that her experiences had generally been positive. “People were always wanting me to come into their house,” she said. Natasha was often used by British Gas to attend to vulnerable customers such as the elderly, domestic abuse victims and Muslim women. “British Gas was one of the only companies that offered the option to have a female instead of a man,” Natasha explained. It was through this realisation that sparked the idea of Get Her Trade. “I had kind of reached the peak of where I was going to get to in British Gas, and I knew I was confident that I could go and fit boilers for myself. So I just took the leap and left. “I looked at the market and I looked at sites like Check-a-Trade, Rated People, Trust-a-Trader, and they have women on there, but there is no ability to click male or female, and people want that option. “It was probably about two years Get Her Trade is the UK’s only dedicated tradeswoman directory ago when I started thinking about Get Her Trade. I had no idea how I was going to do it. I stopped and came back to it again, and then this year I thought, you know what, there’s been a lot of publicity about tradeswomen and equality – this is the year to go for it. And if I don’t do it, someone else is going to come up with the idea and I’ll regret it.” Along with selling her house and working part-time as a gas engineer, Natasha approached Virgin Start-Up to help her achieve her goals. “It decided that Get Her Trade was financially viable and gave me £25,000. I get a mentor for a year who is in the industry, which is fantastic because there’s a lot of stuff that I have no concept of. If I didn’t have Virgin, there wouldn’t be Get Her Trade.” At the moment Get Her Trade is simply a directory devoted to tradeswomen. “If you want a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter, someone doing DIY, who is female in your house, and in your area, you type in your postcode, type in the trade and it will come up with the results,” said Natasha. However, Natasha has a lot of plans to expand. “We’re going to go into schools and talk about what it’s like to be a tradeswoman, and to promote getting more girls in. A lot of tradeswomen don’t join until they’re over 30,” she said. “We’re not just a directory, we want to change everything, we’re looking into apprenticeships, we’re working with a lot of colleges and schools about designing programmes that will be dedicated to girls.” Natasha is also keen to get primary schools involved. “I think it really needs to start young and parents need to get behind it. It’s really about promoting that you can be whatever you want to be. “Girls just aren’t made aware that there are these opportunities and what it’s like to be a tradeswomen. No one is ever told about it at school, so that’s the big thing – that we go in early and start getting girls to realise that this is a choice they can make.” However, Natasha has her work cut out. Going against a set of firm hegemonic beliefs about femininity isn’t going to be easy. “I think because of stereotypes girls think, ‘oh no I’m not going to do that. I don’t want to be seen as a manly girl.’ The whole perception of what a tradeswomen is, or who a typical tradeswomen is, needs to be changed. “One of the big campaigns that we’ll launch is that by 2025 25% of the trade workforce will be women. The massive aim is that we go global and it becomes this big enterprise that has changed the workforce and the curriculum.” From starting out with just an idea, to securing Virgin funding, to launching her own business, Natasha has seen a lot of changes herself and hopefully, will make some rather big ones for the industry too. a male dominated industry www.hpmmag.com December 2016 enquiry number 117 “The whole perception of what a tradeswomen is, or who a typical tradeswomen is, needs to be changed”


HPM-12-DEC-2016
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