FOCUS | Infl uential industry women

Retail role models M

Diane Berry, owner Diane Berry Kitchens, Manchester

y experience as a woman in the kitchen industry has been fantastic. I faced challenges in the early days, as I started when I was 16 and soon realised the only way to succeed is to have more knowledge than you really need. So I learnt about copper pipes, couplings, soil pipes, ventilation, ducting, plastering and so on. Then you can win respect on a building site. In fact, being a female with this knowledge often wins more respect than a man. I didn’t stop with knowledge. I have fully tiled a bathroom and can hang wallpaper. I have even done concrete paths. This helps me appreciate what tradespeople do. When it comes to being a great kitchen designer, you need knowledge and there are so many amazing people to learn from and places to do research. Ask lots of questions and become a


listener, as clients love to talk about lifestyles. Ask open questions, listen and then apply common sense. I understand the reluctance to employ women. “Why would I

employ women when they go off to have babies?” But we bring great balance to a team and in this industry people love dealing with women. And these days, men can have time off work too when their partner is having a baby.

We need diversity and this industry will benefi t from any group of people that breaks away from a ‘suit’ saying yes and taking a deposit

In terms of men and women, I feel the industry is quite balanced, as many company representatives are women. But on the sales and design side, men dominate. It is not an easy trade for a parent, male or female, and sadly weekend working is a must. We need diversity and this industry will benefi t from any group of people that breaks away from a ‘suit’ saying yes and taking a deposit. We need people that say ‘yes, of course, but we could do it better’. All my clients enjoy the interaction with a female, but I recognise some prefer a man. We all need to work super-hard so that clients can see and feel that passion and they will click with a person they respect. I have been in the industry for 40 years and hope people are encouraged to see a woman in such a role. This trade can be all-consuming and you need a support

network around you if you have a young family. A builder doesn’t want to wait a week because you have a poorly child.

When I see Kitchens International at events, it makes me smile to see the young people they are training and to see that the future will be diverse. We need new blood. They love technology and this is the way homes are going. They are asking, ‘why do you always do a kitchen that way, maybe we could try something different?’ Let’s hope the new blood will help make our trade honest as well as diverse.

Q: What advice would you give to women looking to emulate your success as a business owner? A: I have always believed if you work hard doing something you love, then the success and reward should follow. I was ambitious, so when I got to a point where I felt there was no further progression, that seemed like the right time to start my own business. My advice would be to gain experience within a company, build up contacts and a reputation.

Hayley Robson, creative director, Day True, London

Q & A

Q: What’s been your experience as a woman in the kitchen industry? A: I started working in the kitchen and bathroom business over 20 years ago, without any expectations or knowledge of the industry. I had studied design and I wanted to work for a company that had design at the forefront. I was fortunate that my introduction to this world was with a well-established company – CP Hart. While they may have started as a plumbers merchant, by the time I joined in 1999 they were far from that and were led by design. They also had a balanced leadership team and they only served to encourage and support

ambitious people, whatever their gender. 28

Q: Do you feel women are under- represented in the KBB industry? A: In the industry as a whole, I don’t think women are under-represented, but I do think it is slightly


balanced at the very top. Maybe it is the case at the more merchant/shed level, but I have never felt this. I would say, as a woman in this industry, I have always been supported by other men and women within it. I would like to see more women as managing directors of brands and suppliers, but I do believe our industry is evolving. I am proud to say that 75% of Day True is female, so I’m in good company.

Q: How do you think the KBB industry as a whole would benefi t from having more women in a variety of roles? A: I think every industry would benefi t from a balance at every level and leadership. Considering the majority of purchases of kitchens and

· March 2021

bathrooms are driven by women, it seems only natural that this balance should be refl ected in roles across the industry.

Q: In your experience, who makes most of the decisions when it comes to the design and purchase of a kitchen? A: Our social media demographics are 70% female and I would say that is refl ected in our clients.

Q: As one of the few women that holds a prominent role in the industry, do you feel you have a role to play in encouraging other women to pursue a this career in the industry? A: I love this industry, I’m proud of what I have achieved, but that wouldn’t have been possible without the support of other people. I think there are some strong women who

represent the KBB world, so I am in good company and I want to encourage and support progression for other women, which I believe will only improve it for everyone. I have been a tutor on the Bucks New Uni kitchen design course for the past four years, which I have found inspiring to be a part of and it allows me to encourage other people.

Q: What do you think is the future of the kitchen industry when it comes to diversity? A: I hope the KBB industry will become

more diverse. As new

generations come into our industry, it will only continue to evolve. The diversity is not just a male versus female perspective, I think diversity across all genders, ages and ethnicity is true diversity and this will only inspire more creativity.

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