Electrician Charlotte Richardson is used to standing out, but she takes it all in her stride; being a role model for women in construction is all part of the job
IF there’s one thing that Charlotte Richardson (pictured) is used to, it’s being asked about being the only girl on the team.
Whether it’s working as a bouncer, a handyperson or an electrician, she’s always stood out among the men at her various workplaces. But Richardson is no different from them, simply getting on with the job at hand.
After deciding university wasn’t for her, Richardson trained to be an electrician and qualified in 2016.
For the past two months, 24-year-old Richardson has been working with Yorkshire Housing’s homeworks team as an electrician, fixing and installing circuits for kitchens and bathrooms.
Richardson, who is originally from Hartlepool, has been praised as one of the best electricians on the team. Manager, Andy Kelham called her a “real find”.
It’s still a rarity for a woman to be working in such departments, says the housing association, but for Richardson, it’s what happens when a girl gets to follow her own interests without listening to others telling her what she should be doing.
“My sister was pushing me towards university and I was never interested in it,” Richardson said. “One week before sixth form I decided to go to college. In college they push you towards health and social care, but I wasn’t interested in that. I went to an open day and I thought I would give the electrician course a try.”
One of the main things that attracted her to the course was that it was a chance to earn while she learned.
“It appealed to me because my sister who went to university ended up with a lot of debt,” she added. “Colleges do get overlooked quite a lot. There were two other girls on the course with me when I joined. When I went back in my second year it was just me.”
Now she’s happy doing what she trained for and working on the homeworks team – even though she’s the only woman.
“I have always been interested in positive gendering. And a lot of times because of equality and the lack of diversity on these teams there is an element of ‘give her a go’, which works in my favour sometimes,” she said.
“You get used to working with whoever. It feels awkward at first. Blokes are reluctant to speak to you. I don’t know why. Maybe it is the stigma. Women don’t usually do these things. But once you crack a joke and show that you are human, it’s fine.
“They are worried about offending you, so they don’t know what to say. They moan about their wives, so they are afraid [ she laughs]. One guy said one time, ‘I don’t really class you as a woman’, so I knew I was ok then.”
Richardson is looking to advance in her career by completing a course in building services, which focuses on planning, and she says that hopefully Yorkshire Housing will be able to help her along this path.
But in the meantime, the team is glad to have her on board.
“Charlotte came from the home improvement agency as a handyperson in Harrogate. I found out she was a qualified electrician and we snapped her up. She is probably the best electrician we have on the team,” Kelham said.
Donning her hi-vis jacket and tool kit, Richardson is helping to open women and girls’ eyes to the option of working in traditionally male-dominated industries; just as men should be encouraged to follow careers that are traditionally seen as female. And she has a bit of advice for others thinking of a future career or a change.
“I would just say don’t be afraid to try something different that is maybe not seen as a typical career for a woman,” she said. It’s not a bad thing to be different. And although things are changing, and more women are on construction/engineering courses, be prepared potentially to be the only woman in the room.”