In this post, our member Gemma Bell-Saunders, shares her thoughts with us on gender bias, women in a traditionally male-led industry and what it’s like to face challenges in 2022.
Gemma Bell-Saunders – MBS Gardens
My name is Gemma and I co-own MBS Gardens with my husband Michael.
Working in a traditionally male-dominated industry I often find that people expect me to hold a certain role within the business – and it’s definitely not the one I actually have! Maybe it’s not that common to find a female member of a landscaping team who knows the regulations for drainage on a residential driveway, the correct process to lay porcelain paving or how to cultivate a hedge – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what I do in the business.
The preconception of where I ‘fit’ in the business generally revolves around diary management, PA work and general office duties. In reality I’m much more ‘hands on’ with the landscaping side of the business and complement my colleagues with my own set of skills. Suppliers are often surprised to have a woman calling regarding landscaping materials. On one occasion, I had a company ask me to get the ‘actual landscaper’ to call him back to be sure I was ordering the correct product and amount – needless to say we’ve not used them again since!
When it comes to bias, yes, I’ve experienced it. I think a working woman’s role is always a challenging one. In my own working life, I’ve had to find the delicate balance between being a mum and an employee or, currently, a business owner. It’s so tough sometimes. I often feel as though I’m expected to be ‘all things to all people’ and inevitably, it’s hard to keep spinning all the plates. I’ve learned that there are expectations placed on women that you don’t seem to see as much elsewhere. I don’t mean that men have less pressure, just that it is of a different kind. We’re expected to raise families like we don’t work and fulfil our work like we don’t have a family. It has become so entrenched for many of the women I know that there’s often a sense of failure – feeling like they’re not doing enough, when, in fact, they’re real-life wonder women doing a spectacular job!
There’s a quote I love by one of my favourite female writers, Maya Angelou: “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”
Myself and my husband often talk to our children about International Women’s Day. With one son and two daughters, I feel it’s important to talk to all of them about kindness, success, respect and hard work regardless of gender. We try to celebrate that, and our individuality, every day. My Mum was a successful career woman and raised me to be a strong woman who is unapologetically me. I’ll always be grateful to her for that and I strive to pass that on to my children too.
How will you and your business be celebrating #IWD2022 – share your plans in the comments or head over to our Facebook group to share there.