Picture caption: Beth Gostelow, receiving Apprentice of the Year at the national Bradstone Assured Awards 2019
Ffion Llwyd-Jones talks with industry professionals about the current opportunities – and challenges – for women in the landscaping industry.
The United Kingdom ranks only 15th in the world (GGGR, 2018) in gender equality, despite having an almost equal (1.03) ratio of women/men.
People’s perception of the landscape industry remains the biggest challenge as it continues to be seen as a mainly male profession. However, as Jodie Fedorko of The Leicestershire Garden Design, and a BALI GoLandscape ambassador, comments:
“This shouldn’t put women off. It’s a male-dominated industry, especially in landscape construction. It isn’t a sexist viewpoint that men, generally, are stronger and therefore better suited for construction careers, that’s just science, but we’re no strangers to manual labour and new equipment means physical brawn is less of a requirement.”
And, after all, the landscaping industry is a “fantastic industry for a woman to enter”, according to Sarah Goodhew, a recruitment consultant for Horticruitment’s Landscape and Nursery Sectors before returning to the tools in 2018; she is now horticultural team leader at Hythe Garden Landscapes in South East Kent.
She adds: “It can offer flexible working options as well as being a very rewarding career – I urge women not to be discouraged due to family or childcare commitments.”
The breadth of options offered by the sector are also attractive, as Hilary Oakley, partner in Oakley Landscapes, comments: “It’s a very interesting field, and women are increasingly working equally in husband and wife teams.” The company’s garden design won overall winner for the APL awards 2019.
Beth Gostelow, named Apprentice of the Year at the national Bradstone Assured Awards 2019, agrees, adding: “The industry is also brilliant for keeping you active and fit – and there’s nothing better than being outside.”
That positive attitude is echoed by Mark Bolam, recruitment consultant at Horticruitment. “It’s a fantastic job and great working environment.” However, he also notes the need to progress quickly, because the money at the bottom is poor: “In our experience, the average age of applicants for operative roles are 20-25 and 25+ for Team Leaders and above.”
Sarah concurs: “Salaries across the industry are notoriously low in comparison with other careers with comparable training levels. I believe this plays a huge factor when deciding to enter the industry.”
There are various ways to get into the landscape industry, ranging from applying for a job with an employer or through a recruitment agency, to gaining practical work experience (with the intention of it eventually leading to a permanent job), and apprenticeships, college and university courses.
Direct work experience with a company can be a practical way to experience the landscape industry and find out if it’s what you really want to do. That worked for Beth, who started working in her family’s business Gostelow Paving, and then completed a landscape design course at college, which, as she comments, has “really helped with designing new landscapes and looking at innovative ways to make a garden stand out.” She adds that working weekends in the industry can be a good move to find out if it’s where you really want to work before making a more formal commitment.
Discussing apprenticeships, Stephen Ensell, Education Officer, British Association of Landscape Industries (Bali) comments: “Our industry sees a good proportion come into the industry that are career changers and many of these are women, but BALI sees the need to not only encourage career changers, but also school leavers. GoLandscape has been going into a range of schools, including all-girls’ schools and it’s interesting to see that it is not even on their radar, or even seen that it’s a credible career, but once it has been outlined in terms of the broad range of roles available as well as the skills we are looking for, there has been a good amount of interest, especially from the creative and environmental aspects of the job.”
Jodie emphasises the importance of recruiting women into the industry at a younger age, talking to those of a high school age and making them aware of what the industry means and offers.
She adds: “As more women are seen in roles, more women will come forward, so companies should show this on their websites and social media. There are women like me already in the industry, so companies could take advantage of the power of social media. People need to see there is a gender mix, and this can be most frequently seen on Facebook and in Instagram posts. It’s not a case of glamorising the industry, but showing its real rawness. A diverse work force creates a more diverse client base.”
Stephen comments the 20117/18 academic year shows the difference in the number/ratio of men and women, adding: “I would suggest this would be mainly the horticulture route.’’
Sarah believes a formally recognised qualification, either via a work-based apprenticeship or college course is valuable: “This will provide a strong foundation to build on with further knowledge and experience. Back your qualifications up with experience to have a change of earning a respectable wage.”
She adds: “Early education is where the main focus for the industry should be. Children should be exposed to different sectors within the horticultural sectors. By offering children the opportunity to understand and get involved at an early age, there will be no end to the enrichment gained by all sectors.”
While Mark comments that challenges for women in the landscape industry can include proving they can do the job as well as men, he quickly adds: “The reward is being accepted, having proved they can do it as well, if not better. Women seem to be promoted more quickly, as they have had to put the effort in to get there.”
Sarah affirms: “Unfortunately, there will always be expectations with certain job roles or specific incidents of discrimination as with any industry. I feel that this industry in general can offer women a rewarding and satisfying career. The biggest reward for individuals within the industry is the satisfaction you get from utilising the multitude of opportunities available.”
And, she adds: “This industry is one of the most inclusive industries to be a part of. If you are capable and willing to put the work in, women can have as much support and development opportunities as their male counterparts.”
For Hilary, seeing a design come to life is a major reward: “To design, build and finish a project is putting your work, your inspiration on the line.”
In the end, many women considering working in the multi-faceted landscape industry may need to heed advice from both Hilary and Mark, as they state, simply: “Go for it!”
Gender Gap Global Ranking. Score of 0.736. (0.00 = inequality, 1.00 = equality). The Global Gender Gap Report 2018. World Economic Forum. http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2018/data-explorer/#economy=GBR [Online] Accessed 10 April 2019.