Features - Business

What IWD 2021 means to Simply’s MD

In light of International Women’s Day, Ruth Cobb, Managing Director at environmental services firm Simply​ shares her story on how she’s gone from working her way up through the ranks of the business to becoming its owner, highlighting her challenges and successes along the way.

A challenged world is an alert world. That’s the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day as we #ChooseToChallenge.

It’s about calling out gender bias and inequality so that we can start to create a more inclusive world.

Women can be as strong as they want to be. In the past year we’ve shown this more than ever as many of us have balanced both a career and childcare during a global pandemic.

In the past four years, businesses in the UK owned by women has increased from [1]17% to 32% – we also now make up [2]12% of the construction sector. Although this is a major improvement and shows we are heading in the right direction, I would love to see more women coming into the industry and building up their own firms.

As someone who owns her own company, after purchasing the business I passionately worked my way up in for over 15 years, I have seen and faced a number of challenges that come with working in a male dominated industry. I remember turning up at a range of sites back in the early 2000’s and seeing the surprised look on each man’s face as they found it unusual that a woman was organising environmental solutions for a client.

This allowed me to create a name for myself whilst making me more determined in highlighting how women are capable of doing jobs that are stereotyped as being for men.

Simply is an environmental services company which works within the waste management, events and construction sectors. I truly was the only woman in a man’s world when I started out as a Hire Controller back in 2004 and there were many occasions when I wasn’t always taken seriously just because of my gender.

Fast forward to 2021 and now 23% of the Simply team is female. This is something I am very proud of and as the business grows, I am passionate about welcoming more women to our team.

The construction and waste management industries don’t always seem glamourous and I understand this can sometimes be an impenetrable barrier for women when it comes to thinking about a career within the sector. There is also the issue of it being highly male dominated.

But more than even before, it’s important we create behavioural change to increase diversity and equality in the workplace. I have started to see more and more female Drivers and Site Managers on projects which is a huge transformation and is something that excites me.

The Coronavirus pandemic truly highlighted how the construction sector is the foundation of generating the UK’s economy. Throughout the pandemic and national lockdown’s Simply has continued to provide essential services, including fresh water deliveries and toilet waste removal, to a range of sites including construction projects and NHS Covid testing facilities. It has been vital that we provide our services within a quick turnaround time to relieve the pressure on our clients.

As construction is at the forefront of many Governmental policies, we are only going to get busier and so we are also seeing a major skill shortage.

This is the perfect time for more women to explore a career within the sector. It provides a stable and reliable income during a time when many are either on furlough or have lost their jobs.

There are so many opportunities for women in construction right now. At Simply, we have made sure the team has access to regular mentoring, training opportunities as well as being able to use our on-site company gym and break out room.

We are also a Mindful Employer, recognising the need to safeguard the mental health of our team – something which has been incredibly important during the Coronavirus pandemic.

If a business clearly shows how it supports and values its team then this will go a long way in breaking down barriers.

One of the barriers which needs to be addressed is the thought around women not being able to have a career as well as children.

Whilst the pandemic did create a number of challenges, it has also shown our resilience and strength. As a mother and a business owner it has been important for me to adapt in terms of being able to manage home-schooling and childcare with running a company and ensuring the wellbeing and safety of my team. I have learnt to become more flexible and patient whilst recognising the importance of asking for help when it is needed.

This has proved to me, more than ever before, that there is no need to put a career on hold. It’s possible to have the best of both worlds and myself, and the other women at Simply who are mothers, are testament to this. I think many women have realised over the past year; just how capable they are.

Hopefully, as we move into a post pandemic world, we will start to see more women setting up their own businesses, as well as working within the construction sector. This will help to create a more equal and diverse workplace.

[1] file:///C:/Users/maisi/Downloads/women-in-enterprise-report-v03.pdf

[2] https://www.women-into-construction.org/why-diversity-matters/

If you would like to read more stories like this, then please click here