International Women’s Day - celebrating Amey women out in the field!

08 March 2021
A picture taken outside of Catherine celebrating international women's day.

Today is International Women’s DayWomen have always been the minority in areas such as engineering and grounds maintenance, but at Amey we’re helping to change this by celebrating our women who work in jobs that were previously thought of as ‘men-only’ roles. 

Catherine Whiteside has worked for Amey for twelve years and is a great example of how a passion for the outdoors and work experience at a garden centre during her University years set a path for a career in the green industry. 

Catherine said, “My route to my current role as a Grounds Manager wasn’t entirely obvious. I studied spatial design at University and worked part-time at a private botanical garden and plant centre. was completely won over by the plants so when I graduatedI went to work for a grounds maintenance company as a maintenance operative, where I was the only female member of staff. I gritted, dug, planted, pruned and weeded on commercial contracts not dissimilar to Amey’s contracts now. I only worked there for eight months but I gained incredible respect for those making a living this way, male and female – it isn’t easy believe me!” 

Catherine then began work in the late ‘90s as a garden designer for a local landscaping businessoverseeing the design and construction of countless private and commercial schemes. Catherine was the only female in the company and took to wearing a wedding ring on building sites to help tone down the advances of site foremen and labourers not used to finding a young woman in their midst. 

“Thankfully times have moved on considerably since then” said Catherine “but I still think women can find it a little tougher to break into the grounds maintenance world. I think this is down to it being a bit unusual, and also concerns about the physical strength and resilience neededIt will always be a physical job but developments in equipment, and with a greater focus on health & safety to find ways of supplementing pure muscle power, the role is becoming more appealing to all. This should make the entry level much more accessible to women, along with the application process being subject to more equality monitoring.” 

Catherine’s current role provides grounds maintenance specialist support to Amey’s Defence site teams across our Regional Prime and Housing Central and Scotland & Northern Ireland contracts. She monitors performance, provides subject specific support and liaises with clients, customers and supply chain partners to ensure the MOD estate grounds stay compliant and well maintained. 

So, what advice does Catherine have for other women who might be thinking of joining the industry?  

“You have to roll with it and accept that you will encounter an array of different male (and female) attitudes. Decide where your hard line of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour towards you is and choose your battles. To put it simply – embrace being treated like one of the lads and don’t expect special measures. If you take a good sense of humour to work with you, you’ll probably find you’ll get on just fine. If your goal is to work in the great outdoors, embrace the sun and the rain and just go for it!