Earlier this year, MRW analysis of data gathered for new reporting requirements found that there were wide discrepancies in gender pay gap performance in the waste management sector, with examples of pay gaps in favour of both men and women. The discrepancies were put down to the relatively low number of women in the sector. Following this, MRW sought out the views of some of the industry’s female workers
Carol Crumlin, office manager, Vanden Recycling
As office manager for Vanden’s Lisburn office, I am responsible for the day-to-day running of the contracts and logistics team, working with the Hong Kong and UK offices and forwarders, dealing with problem-solving in all areas.
One of the things I love about working for Vanden is that we are like a family – we are all there for each other. At 65, I am the oldest and longest-serving employee in the UK operation, and have enjoyed every day of the six years I have worked here.
My perception of the waste industry when I joined was that it was very male-oriented. But, over time, I have seen more women come into the sector, working weighbridge facilities, driving, in logistics co-ordination, health and safety, compliance and manual positions.
As the only female on-site when I started, I was always treated with respect. My managers and peers still ask for advice. However, externally, some people think that because we are ‘office-based staff ’ we don’t know the sector, when in fact our knowledge is on par.
I would love to see more women in the sector because I think the industry would benefit. We have broken down many preconceived barriers. A lot of women in recycling are middle and senior management and therefore are on the same pay scale as men. However, it is quite possible that some are paid less based on the company, location or whether someone got a pay increase based on performance.
The way to attract more women into the industry is no different to attracting ‘more people’. There is a need to change the perception and, following revelations about pollution and waste in Blue Planet II, I think we can push this more than ever. We need to see the materials we deal with as resources and not waste.
Vikki Jackson-Smith, managing director, J&B Recycling
I founded the business 20 years ago and have had the pleasure in leading a team that has seen the business grow from a one-site processing plant to three sites. We have grown the business to £20m turnover and provide employment to around 200 full time staff. We have achieved this mainly through reinvesting profits back into the business and encouraging growth through innovation to achieve high-quality services and materials.
With a further two upgrades to our MRF scheduled in the next six months, I am looking forward with confidence to execute our growth plans and give our customers peace of mind that their materials processed will continue to achieve the highest standards required.
The industry was relatively new when our recycling business was established, and was predominantly male, but this never created any barriers either personally or for J&B. We work closely with many sectors including private and local authorities in providing waste services, so we see a good mix of male and female decision-makers.
I have never experienced any issues being a female within this industry but feel that J&B, like many others, is ensuring that equal opportunities and equal pay is the norm. I am keen to see equal opportunities and pay across all industries and, if this results in more women joining the waste industry, then that is great. I have always been a believer in finding the right person for the job and the challenge.
Our record of an equal split across the senior management team in men and women is working evidence of this positive diversity. We also pay salaries based on the role and not the gender of the person responsible for the role. I do not feel the industry discourages females to engage, and I am seeing more publicity within the industry to promote the amazing opportunities and support for women.
I feel that men and women bring equally positive benefits to any organisation. But perhaps being a female boss in a new industry 20 years ago may have provided an incentive to my female employees to aim high within the business and grow their own roles. I have a sense of achievement in knowing I have contributed to attracting women into this industry through promotion by investing in training.
I believe it is important that gender pay is managed to ensure equal opportunities for everyone. But the reporting must ensure that comparisons are like-for-like to avoid misinterpretation of the outputs.
Lynsey Kirkwood, business growth executive, Vanden Recycling
My role involves approaching potential suppliers in the manufacturing and waste management sector, introducing our services to them. As part of my job I speak to a wide range of people across the industry, arranging appointments for colleagues to view material.
Having spent many years in a specialist finance role, I decided I was ready for a new challenge and landed the role of contracts administrator for Vanden in 2015. In 2017, I was asked to take part in a project which was to last a few weeks initially, but I was then promoted to business growth executive this year making the role a permanent position.
When it comes to the gender make-up of the waste sector, the impression is that it is a male-dominated one. But there are a lot more women in the industry than people think – we just don’t know about them yet. Women in the industry need to be bit more vocal.
From my view, I treat everyone as equal but there are times where it is impossible. For instance, I find the conversations I have vary greatly from call to call. For some people, it needs to be straight to the point but others are happy for general chat during the call as well. I would not say this is gender-based but more sector orientated, and very much down to people’s availability to talk.
I am not naïve to the fact that disparities on gender pay occurs, but I would like to believe that any company would base its pay on the skill and not the gender.
I feel fortunate to be surrounded by ex-tremely supportive directors who have all taken me under their wings and given me a career, as well as supportive colleagues who are happy to share their own knowledge of the sector as well as learn from the fresh ideas I bring.
Having worked my way up from an administration post, I believe I have as much chance at succeeding as anyone else. Rather than being based on my gender, I put that down to the hard work and enthusiasm I have shown.
Emma Elston, chief executive of UK Container Maintenance
In 1998 when I set up UKCM with my husband, there were not as many women in the waste and recycling industry but, in the past 20 years, this has changed considerably. It is great to see more women in high-profile positions within the industry. The environmental sector is thriving, becoming more diverse and providing a range of different opportunities, but there is always room for improvement.
I am really proud to work in the sector, and is an exciting time to be working in it. Twenty years ago, it was very much a male-dominated industry but the men and women I have worked with, and who have supported me over the years, have all been fantastic. The industry does bring its challenges, but, in my experience, it has never been a gender issue.
Of course I would like to see more women in the sector. The industry in 2018 is a different place than it was two decades ago. There is a lot more diversity, which is important across all industries, and something we must all work towards.
Regardless of gender, you choose the right person for the job, with the skills that are needed. At UKCM we welcome diversity and want to see the industry mirror this as it grows. We don’t choose people based on their gender – we choose our team because of their unrivalled knowledge and skills, to ensure our customers are getting the best service possible.
According to reports, the waste industry is one of three in the UK in which women earn more than men, based on companies employing more than 250 people. If these are indeed correct figures, this is positive news for women working in the industry, and I hope that the sector moves towards equal pay for everyone, regardless of gender.