Meet Fiona Wilson - Women in Construction Week 2023
To celebrate Women in Construction Week and International Women’s Day we have been catching up with some of our customers to find out more about them, how they got into construction, what changes they have seen in the industry and most importantly what they love about working in construction.
To kick us off we caught up with Fiona Wilson, an Operator for Tom Grant Plant. You may have seen Fiona on our socials previously as she operates Tom’s famous Pink Digger which raised £11.5k for Breast Cancer Now last year.
Name: Fiona Wilson
Company: Tom Grant Plant
How did you get into your current role?
I got into digger driving by going and paying for my own tickets at Holeside Training. I just asked them how much it would be, got myself booked in and passed my tests. After I passed, I started working with Hamilton Tarmac. I’m currently working for Tom Grant Plant Hire; I got in touch with Tam and asked if he was needing anyone and he was happy to take me on. Before I was an operator I worked for the NHS and I was just sick and tired of being stuck inside staring at the same four walls every day.
Tell us about a typical day at work for you?
So, a typical day at work for me, that one's really hard to answer because obviously every day is kind of different. I generally arrive on site in the morning, do daily machine checks, get a briefing if there is one or an induction if it's a new site, and then just get cracking on whatever it is to be done. But every job is so different, changes so often, which is one of the reasons I love it so much!
What changes have you seen in construction in recent years with regards to gender bias? Do you think that events like Women in Construction by SPOA are opening more doors for women to work in construction?
Yeah, I think that what the SPOA are doing is helping because I feel like a lot more women are coming together and realising that you're not as alone in it all. But also, I feel like other girls will see that and think, “oh you know what? If they can do it, I can do it.” Also, on sites now, you don't get that surprised look as much. People aren't as shocked to see a woman doing the job. Some people do comment but it's mostly positive and people say, “oh, it's good to see.”
I find a lot of the time people are saying, oh, we had a women lorry driver, or literally the other week there a member of the public stopped and spoke to me and he's like, oh, “it's good to see a women doing this job. I had women in plasterer in my house the other day and he commented that obviously you see a lot more women in trades and construction and stuff like that now. I think it has a lot to do with social media too, there has been a lot of publicity around women in construction which makes it more accessible.
The theme of international women’s day this year is “Embracing Equity”, Do you think the industry has changed to allow women to have similar opportunities? Or is there still some things to improve on?
I think the opportunities have actually always been there. It's just getting women to take them if you know what I mean. I think in my personal experience, I've never been stopped or, nobody's ever said, you can't do that. If anything, I would have said that people are more like the opportunities are maybe even slightly more in favour women because the industry are so keen to get us involved. A lot of companies are willing to do anything they can to help. So yeah, I definitely don't think the industry has changed as such, but the opportunities are definitely there are and it's just getting the right people to take them.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
My favourite part of my job is so hard to answer because there are so many good bits about my job! I think the best part about my job is getting to do something different. So you never you know where you’ll be working, like last year, I was on the same site for seven months, but then in the space of like one month, I was on several different jobs. So you're not on always going to be stuck in the same place. You're not in the same four walls. You're always out and about. I also love the satisfaction in seeing a job through from start to finish.
What’s your proudest achievement in your working life so far?
If it's my whole working life, then probably making the jump, going to get my ticket and jumping into construction industry. But if it's within the actual industry, I don't know because there are literally so many things to be proud of. I'm almost proud on like a weekly basis because there are so many things. One of them would definitely be getting an RRV ticket and working on the railway because that's massive. For anyone, anybody to go and do that, they're hefty bits of kit! To be able to say that you go and operate them is really good. Also getting good reports from clients and customers, that makes me proud. When people appreciate or comment or thank you for your work. That does make you really proud.
Getting to operate the pink machine that is cool as fuck, that is a proper proud moment because literally nobody else can say that they do that. Going to ScotPlant 2022 and like, seeing it be unveiled and knowing that it's for a good cause, it's like absolutely brand new. It was such a good job done of the paintwork. To be a part of that, like to be a part of the whole process and to operate it and chat to people on site and tell them what it's all about, like, that makes me proud as well
What is the best advice you’ve been given since starting in construction?
Be confident is definitely up there. Make friends, not enemies, because you never know when you're going to need a hand from someone. If you're really friendly when you go on site, it's really rare that you'll ever not get the same back. The worst thing, I reckon I have never had a problem on site but I've also never gone on site with a bad attitude.
You may come across some people who are initially a bit not threatened by you, but they're a bit put off by the fact that you're there because you're a woman or whatever. But they can always, always be talked round if you show that you're friendly and that you're willing to help. Always try and be helpful, just make friends. Never go on site and be arrogant or go on site and noise people up just because you should never be self-righteous about it and expect the world just because you're a woman. Treat people as you expect to be treated and people will treat you with respect, people will treat you nicely and if you make friends, you always will definitely make friends because you'll always bump into the same people again. I've been on sites and it could be a year it could be two years down the line and you will bump into the same people and they will remain remember you for well, they'll remember you for how you operate as a machine, but nine times out of ten, they'll remember you for how you wear as a person. And if they got on well with you, they'll be happy to have you back.
What advice would you give to women who have an interest in construction but aren’t sure if it’s right for them?
That is a hard one because it is a massive jump to make. If you're that serious about it then definitely I would say go for it. If you're not happy, you have to love the job you do. And I didn't love the job I did before I became an Operator. I've never looked back. I was scared when I left, when I thought about it I believe I was scared because I was coming out of my comfort zone and what I knew. But I have not looked back and I love my job now. So I don't wake up of a morning and think, oh, God.
I mean, well, I do, but it's not in the same respect. And I don't come home, and I don't take my work home with me because I love my job. And you shut the door at the end of the day, satisfied, and you go home.
There's loads of new training centres like Blackwood. If you're serious about it then try and get involved in the industry or see if you can ask a friend of a friend or anybody that you know within the industry that you could maybe go and see what it's like. Or I would say advice for people who are coming into the industry, speak to the girls that are doing it. If you've got questions, I'm sure the SPOA would be happy to let people get in touch with us if they've got questions about site work and ask the people that are doing it. But if you're not happy in your job then definitely go and find something that you do love to do.
Do you have any work goals for 2023?
Not really. I mean, I don't really plan on what I'm doing. No, I don't really have any work to goals. I'm just happy and content.
What about life outside of work? What do you do when you’re not at work?
Outside of work, my life revolves around my pony! So I like to get out, competing on him, going out, hacking, going to the country park, wind farms. Basically, my whole working life funds his vet bills! I also like to go out with friends, horse riding, getting out competing on him after a hard day's work, going up to the yard and seeing his face makes it so worth it.