The first Women in Plant event, organised by the Scottish Plant Owners Association (SPOA), has been hailed a success.

The event, which sold out in advance, took place earlier in October at the Cromlix Hotel in Dunblane. It was an open forum for all women in the plant industry.

The SPOA organised the event so that women could have a platform to share their views and ultimately to use those insights to help create a more inclusive industry. Amy Monaghan, Director at Arvill Plant and Tool Hire, helped lead the event and facilitate discussion.

Speaking about the event, Amy said: “The great thing about this event was the variety of women there. We had apprentices, one girl still in school, women who left other secure careers in the NHS and teaching to fulfil their passion and one woman who had been in the industry for 36 years and worked her way up the ladder.”

The discussions throughout the day highlighted some common challenges that women experience in the plant/construction industry. The challenges included practical issues such as a lack of PPE designed with women in mind, to more cultural challenges around society’s expectations of women in the world of work.

Amy continued: “Employers looking for experience was a common challenge faced by the women with that experience being hard to obtain, especially for those who don’t have family in the industry.

“Unsurprisingly and by no means unique to our industry, was the challenge of childcare. The working day begins at 7am for most operators or engineers and doesn’t end until 5pm or later. Unfortunately, we still live in a society where women are the main caregivers and with a lack of flexibility within the roles, it is difficult for women to carve a career for themselves.”

Two women who attended the event were Clare MacMillan from GAP Group and Fiona Scott, who operates tracked excavators for Tom Grant Plant and RRVs and rail bugs for Story Plant. Clare has been in the industry for 36 years, since she was 16, and has risen through the ranks at GAP.

Speaking about the event, Clare said: “I felt this was a worthwhile and positive start to raising awareness for woman in construction. It was a good day with a wide variety of skills around the table. Those there were very positive and gave some helpful insights into their personal experiences.

“When I started at 16, on the Youth Training Scheme (YTS), I never thought I would be the general manager of my own welfare depot in Harthill. I put this down to my work ethic and rising to the challenge of being successful in a man’s world. I always try to take the positives from any situation and ensure I give 100% every day. I love the banter in my job and that hard work pays off.

“Sometimes you think to yourself, it shouldn’t be this difficult, and that is why you need to believe in yourself and your own ability. I started in 1987 and have never looked back. My advice to other women starting out in the industry is always ask if you are unsure about anything and push yourself because you want to not because you feel you have to.”

Fiona added: “I thought it was a brilliant opportunity to meet like-minded women who share the same passion. I loved hearing where people had come from and the jobs they did. I felt the support from everyone in the room was great. It was constructive, and we addressed lots of issues with a really positive attitude.”

Callum Mackintosh, President of the SPOA, concluded: “I’d like to thank everybody that took the time to attend the Women in Plant event. For me, what came across very clearly is the need to open everybody’s minds to a career in construction or the plant industry from an early age. It is very much still the case that stereotypes persist either at home with parents or in schools when it comes to career choices for young women.

“This is something the SPOA is keen to address, and we have already started working closely with Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) in Scotland to meet with pupils and teachers and introduce them to our industry. I would also add that this challenge is by no means unique to females, the SPOA is working hard to encourage all young people to consider a career in plant.

“As for women who are working in our industry, then I will reiterate that the SPOA is committed to helping women have a voice and we will do all we can to ensure that their professional experience is a positive one.”