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Angela Rushforth: InstallerSPOTLIGHT Series

The InstallerSHOW Spotlight Series
In association with Grundfos

Over the coming weeks, we will be profiling some influential figures in the industry and hearing their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities they have faced in their careers. Watch or listen to the full interviews below.

We begin with Angela Rushforth, who is managing director of Toolstation and chair of the Construction Inclusion Coalition.

Angela is one of those people who only came into the industry by chance, but stayed to build a long and successful career – in her case in the specialist world of merchanting. She started out with Screwfix in its early days and has since gone on to hold a wide range of roles within the sector. Since joining the Travis Perkins group in 2015, that theme of variety has continued: “I’ve gone right the way across the board, from BSS, which is very much commercial/industrial and main contractor-led, to Toolstation, which is obviously smaller tools and very much in support of the retail sector,” she says. “It’s been wonderful.”

Among her personal highlights is setting up a dedicated degree scheme with Anglia Ruskin University whilst md of independent builders’ merchant Ridgeons: “I am really proud that a lot of people who undertook that degree over two or three years have gone on to be really successful within the industry,” she says.

This rise to senior roles has not been without its challenges as a woman, however. Angela notes: “Invariably, you find yourself the only woman in the room and therefore it is difficult to have that engagement and it can be quite a challenge just to establish yourself – at times, I did feel like I had to act a bit more like the men in the room, to be able to be heard. So later on, finding my own voice was really important.”

Angela believes that things are changing, although perhaps not fast enough: “Now it is unusual to be the only woman in the room – we’ve got a higher proportion of women in the industry, and I think for people joining the industry, they can see someone who has achieved whatever they want as their next step, from salespeople to managing directors.”

While at TP she established the company’s first women’s network in 2019, which in turn evolved into a full Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) agenda and a number of different groups including a Pride network and initiatives ranging from family-friendly work policies to menopause cafes.

Her key piece of advice to women entering the industry would be to work for a good manager: “See how supportive they are of you and your career because ultimately, that’s critical. And if you don’t see that, seek out a mentor – seek out other people who are like you.”

This is where networking groups are so valuable, she believes, because it ensures that people are not facing challenges alone: “What that original women’s network did was allow women to have a voice and we made some really great strides – it is making a difference and has made a difference within the business… One of the things that we’ve done quite successfully is to tie this up with our apprenticeship offering. We found that by recruiting on an apprenticeship, we bring more diversity into the business and we also retain diverse colleagues for longer through that apprenticeship network as well.”

One of the reasons that the Construction Inclusion Coalition was created was that people were saying that the challenges were industry-wide.

It is clear that this is starting to meet a real need: “One of the pieces of research that we did before we launched CIC was to go out and ask people what they felt about the industry, and would they be interested in joining the industry. And a vast majority of people, around 60%, said that if a company had a strong ED&I agenda, they would be more interested in joining the business. And I think that’s hugely important.”

She believes that this is a crucial time for the industry to look to recruit from a diverse community: “Sometimes we’re wedded to the fact that that people have to have specific skills already, rather than working out how we grow and develop those skills. And, actually, do we really know what skills we need for the future? So going out and recruiting a diverse pool of people who can grow and develop with our business is much more beneficial.”

The challenge needs to be embraced by the men of the industry too, she stresses: “We need to have a mindset that that is truly around inclusion. There isn’t such a thing as a man’s job and a woman’s job… We’re a very heavily male-dominated industry, and therefore it’s about how can everyone within the industry act as allies, and ensure that we’re bringing in more diverse candidates across the board.”

In turn, a focus on inclusion can enable businesses to retain good people too: “We need to be nurturing that talent and understanding the differences and the benefit the differences bring… It’s about spotting talent, engaging with that talent, and making sure that we mentor and support them through their career journey so that they do stay with us.”

 

Angela Rushforth will be appearing alongside other Spotlight panellists in a special discussion at InstallerSHOW on Thursday 27th in the Climate Solutions Theatre.
Register for your free ticket to InstallerSHOW, including the Spotlight panel discussion on day 3 HERE

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