After applying to work in Health & Safety as a stop gap before moving on in her career, Suzie Godfrey quickly found a love for her job. Working in several companies across different sectors, Suzie has been able to develop a key understanding of the key themes in Health & Safety. Most recently, Suzie has been working for Buildbase and enjoying her role. Working up from more junior positions in the company, Suzie now leads a team of people.
In her blog, Suzie talks to #YesSheCan about the importance of equality in the workplace, as well as her experiences managing teams in the construction industry.
Tell us a bit about your current role
As the Health and Safety Manager for Buildbase, I’m responsible for leading our health and safety strategy and providing advice to the business supported by my team of brilliant Health and Safety Advisors. We aim to give the branches the knowledge and tools to make sure that everyone goes home safely at the end of the day. We do have some challenging days so I work hard to make sure that the team are supported and are able to talk through any problems they face.
What barriers have you faced in your career?
When I first started working for Grafton, I was the first female H&S Advisor to work for the company and although I had as much experience in health and safety as the rest of the team, I didn’t have any experience working in a builders merchant. Initially, I was faced with a degree of scepticism from some of the team because they didn’t think that it was a job that a woman should be doing and I had to work harder to prove myself to gain their respect.
What motivated you to keep going?
I knew that I had the skills and experience to do the role so found it frustrating that I was treated differently as a woman. I focused on establishing myself within the business and had great support from the operational teams which gave me the confidence and determination to keep going. Eventually, my results spoke for themselves and our team relationships improved.
What are your proudest achievements?
Firstly when I became a manager of people. The responsibility to manage people and help to guide them in their career is massive. We spend the majority of our time at work so its really important to me to make sure that my team feel happy and supported and I can help them to achieve their career goals.
Secondly when I became Health and Safety Manager for Buildbase. On paper, I may not have been the natural choice for the role as despite having an equal level of experience in H&S to the other candidates, I had fewer years of experience working within the merchanting industry. Thankfully the recruiting manager looked at who would fit the culture of the business and I’m working for a business that I love.
What has been your biggest knockback?
I was turned down for the first promotion that I went for because I was told that I was too nice. All of the previous people who held the role were loud forceful men who were very different to me and I don’t think that the hiring managers could see me filling their shoes. I found this difficult to take as I knew that I had the skills to carry out the role and it was a role that I would enjoy. I didn’t change my personality and continued to perform in my current role showing that I was able to get results without having to raise my voice and shout at people so when I went for the promotion a second time I was successful.
What do we need to do to break down barriers in the workplace?
Barriers only exist because we allow them to. We need to be very mindful not to unconsciously create barriers ourselves and celebrate the successes of people who may not fit the traditional mould to prove that the barriers don’t need to be there.
I still find it a surprise that there is a perceived difference between men and women in the working world. The best change will be when people are viewed on their merits and not based on their gender.
What three tips would you give to females starting their career?
- Take the time to build your network of supportive people; women and men and learn as much as you can from them.
- Don’t feel like you need to change yourself to fit in with the men.
- No one expects you to know everything at the early stages in your career. People will have more respect for you if you ask for help rather than struggle in silence.
What’s great about being a female in your role?
I’m very lucky that at Buildbase I don’t feel that I’m treated any differently being a female in my role than a male. I attended an industry safety forum recently and of the 40 safety professionals who attended, only 4 were female and 2 of whom were from Buildbase. This was a testament to the positive work that Buildbase is doing to increase our diversity. Within safety, sometimes people may be more happy to open up to a woman and genuinely say how they are feeling without the need to show any bravado.
Why is #YesSheCan important to you?
I went to an all girls secondary school and so before I started work I wasn’t really aware of the concept of women being treated differently or being told we couldn’t do things. There are so many outstanding women in the workplace and #YesSheCan is a brilliant platform to celebrate their successes and prove that we really can do anything.
How do you feel about being a positive role model?
It’s a huge responsibility but one that is really important to ensure that other women are given the opportunities to excel. I just try to be the best me that I can be and am always open to help and support anyone who needs it.
How do you ensure that you are an inspiring leader?
To me, leadership is about valuing the experience of others and not having any ideas of personal status. I’m fortunate to work with a great deal of people across the business and some of the people I speak to will talk their positions down and say things like “I’m just a driver”. To me, no one is just an anything and everyone’s opinions and experiences are valuable as they’re the experts in their own roles. I seek out the experience of others and learn from it as much as possible.
What do you hope to achieve in the future?
Within my own career I would love to be as successful as I can be and ultimately be in a more senior role than I am now. As a member of the Women in Buildbase Steering Group I’d love to use our influence to see a greater level of diversity within the business with women being viewed as the same as men.
If you enjoyed reading about Suzie working her way up to become Health and Safety Manager at Buildbase, you'll love reading about entrepreneur, Jackie Fast.