This year, International Women’s Day is a call to arms for all to ‘show your commitment to calling out bias, smashing stereotypes, breaking inequality, and rejecting discrimination’ as part of their #BreakTheBias theme for 2022.
With decades spent leading manufacturing companies in male-dominated environments, our Managing Director Christine Wilde is no stranger to breaking stereotypes and turning bias on its head.
In this piece, we speak at length with Christine as we celebrate women in positions of power and learn how she’s successfully navigated and grown businesses throughout her career.
Christine Wilde is the kind of business leader people notice. Now the Managing Director of Isoclad and our sister brand Securiclad, and formerly the Managing Director of Catnic for over 35 years, Christine has spent nearly all of her working life in manufacturing – and she has the trophies to prove it.
She holds the 2013 titles of Best Business Leader and Woman of the Year, awarded by Women Who Mean Business (WWMB), and Director of the Year for South Wales from the Institute of Directors.
But beyond the awards, Christine is a force to be reckoned with – a glint of steel and a sense she ‘suffers no fools’ is evident to all who meet her, but her key tool is ‘knowing her stuff’ (more on this later).
Having been in the post of MD for Isoclad for over 2 and a half years – a significant portion of which has been spent in various lockdowns – Christine is used to thinking on her feet and adapting to new challenges.
To find out more, we sat down with Christine to talk about women in construction – how they’ve changed the industry, how to succeed in leadership and how to bring more female leaders into a field she’s worked successfully in for 40 years.
How has the manufacturing/construction industry changed since you started out?
“The most significant positive change is the continuous focus to drive safer working environments across the industry, a transition that is delivered by ownership throughout the organisation,” Christine explains.
“When I first joined Isoclad, health and safety was in its embryonic stage and therefore critical to embed that culture within the business. Now, communication around health and safety is how we start the working day, ensuring all employees are aware of any potential risks and hazards.
“The level of automation over the years has been instrumental in driving innovation into the industry, with businesses making the transition from assembly to continuous manufacturing cycles delivering process efficiencies and cost reduction. The expectation for short delivery lead times has become the norm, coupled with advanced technologies to manage real time supply chains.
“Sustainability, again, is one of those elements in construction that has shifted significantly over the years. Businesses today are focused on creating a sustainable future demonstrated through their commitment to environmental, governance and social considerations with net zero being top of the agenda.
“But most importantly, there’s an increasing acceptance of women in senior roles. Today there is more support for women through the building of more inclusive organisations.
“For me, there is power in women coming together to share their experiences, create new skills and support each other.”
So what significant changes have you seen in the role of women in the industry?
“Historically, women were generally in junior admin posts – this is where we have seen a significant change, with women today having roles at all levels in the organisation apart from what I call the ‘C suite’ – the CEOs, CFOs, et cetera – which are still majorly male-dominated roles in business.
“However, women are definitely recognised for their drive and creativity, coupled with passion and empathy, demonstrating how women can be a significant asset to the working environment.
Working in a male-dominated industry as a woman can be challenging – how have you dealt with these challenges?
“Women working in male dominated industries face a variety of challenges from societal expectations to beliefs about women’s leadership abilities, with women currently making up around 14% of construction industry professionals, this number can only be set to rise with misconceptions about gender specific roles gradually diminishing as more women choose a career in construction.”
“Knowledge is power in a male dominated field” says Christine.
“Women are often known as a safe pair of hands; setting goals and achieving deadlines, but it’s not all about flying solo. “Building a strong network has been crucial through my career.”
Some might assume you have to be ‘tough’ to succeed, but this might not always be the case – do you employ other successful managerial strategies? If so, what?
“Being fair, totally transparent and setting clear objectives that can be delivered is critical for effective leadership. And providing an environment for success – take people with you on your strategy and objectives.
The word ‘tough’ is famously a tricky one for women of this calibre – the risk of being ‘difficult’ has plagued female leaders for decades1. “I wouldn’t say it’s ‘tough’ – it’s about clear strategies, continuous engagement, and effective communication at every level.”
How has Resource nurtured you in your career?
“I spent much of my career in downstream businesses for large organisations and whilst that’s given me a great environment for learning and developing, it can also stifle creative thinking.
“Resource has given me the opportunity to think outside the box in an environment without any autocracy which delivers the capability to create your vision, define investment plans and execute the approval process in the timeframe required.”
The culture of ‘get on and do it’ can also be attributed to our CEO and founder, Nick Williams – a bonafide entrepreneur. “Entrepreneurs work in a very different way, which I admire.”
Why do you believe more women should join & succeed in the manufacturing/construction industry?
“Our sector is extremely diverse, with interesting products, leading edge technology and complex commercial processes, moving at a fast pace. This requires a significant focus and attention to detail which often aligns to the strengths in female leaders.
“From my experience, a woman can stand shoulder to shoulder with their male peer group and flourish in this industry.”
What are the obstacles for more women joining this industry, and how can we overcome them?
“There are no obstacles!” Christine answers with a laugh. “I’m one of those people who always has a positive mindset, and therefore there are no obstacles.”
“Know your subject matter coupled with the relevant skill base and experience, and be relentless in your search for the opportunity that best matches your career aspirations.”
How can women support each other in the industry?
“For me, building a strong female network is key to discuss experiences, concerns and give support to other female associates within the industry – women at a senior level in contrasting manufacturing environments come up against disparate frustrations and issues.
“And finally, mentorship is instrumental in supporting other women.” A keen advocate of female mentorship, Christine mentors several women at the moment, offering support and advice gleaned from her years of experience.
What’s the one piece of critical advice you’d give to a woman starting out in the field?
“I don’t think there’s a silver bullet for success, as no piece of advice can work in isolation,” Christine advises.
“To reiterate, knowledge is power in a male orientated industry, aligned with trust, which in turn drives strength in your leadership and your capabilities.”
“The sector we operate in is built on relationships, a skill which lends itself to female leaders. It’s a prominent industry to work in and the role of influential women can only get stronger.”
We’d like to say thanks to Christine for this inspiring interview & share our support for all women in leadership whose hard work and tenacity make this industry the powerhouse it is.
International Women’s Day 2022: #BreakTheBias
The teams at Isoclad and Securiclad are staffed with incredibly hard-working women, all integral to the ongoing success of our female-led business. For #IWD2022, we want to officially say thank you to our team for their commitment and dedication. Let’s continue to #BreakTheBias for another year running!
An earlier version of this article was originally published at resource.org.uk.