Ep 8: Christine Townley

Anne McNamara
January 12, 2021
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Every month I will be exploring with a new interviewee what they have overcome and discovered to build the life and career that they have now. In this episode I speak to Christine Townley, Former Executive Director of Construction Youth Trust.

Here are the key takeaways from the interview: 

Don’t let the views of others stop you from achieving your goals:

'I said that I wanted to become a civil engineer one evening at a parents evening and someone on the panel who was obviously from construction said: ‘Girls don't do that’ so, surprisingly, I did.'

Don’t focus on the JOB TITLE focus on the SKILLS you’ll learn!

'There is a perception that girls will go into hairdressing, where they use their hand skills and they talk and they communicate. What do you do in construction? All of those things! I think it's a case of being able to show people that there's transferable skills and transferable impetus to do a particular job.'

If you have particular knowledge and skills in a certain area then share it!
'I was made redundant but fortunately, while I had been an engineer in Basildon, my mum had pointed out something where I could go and help people to read and write in the evenings. So, I became a volunteer and started to understand how I could help people learn. Teaching [those going] to university and then teaching frontline workers on how to develop their literacy and numeracy so [they] could become a more effective manager.'

When you have the opportunity to help other people out—take it.

'Making a difference to real people's lives-- that's a success! [For example] in education, helping up Tracy Ellis to become a teacher. Taking someone who doesn't perceive themselves as having value and helping them, and helping the person who's going to take them on to understand the value of that individual, that's the piece that's really important.'

Just because women ‘didn’t use to work in [insert industry]’ doesn’t mean it should stay that way. Many things in history didn’t use to happen. Change, progress, improve!

'When I was bought a pram when I was about three I instantly took everything out of it and use it as a wheelbarrow to move gravel so, maybe, the budding engineer was in me then!

It’s perception. It’s strange because women are seen to work in factories, which can often be heavy work, but it's not outside. In the past when there were direct labour organisations in local authorities, there were often vast numbers of women working in those organisations. For instance, in Leicester, about a third of the workforce were in the DLO or women tradeswomen but it soon as the DLOs were sold off that was when they began to lose the workforce of women. So I think it’s perception of women as much as men as to whether that territory is for them.

So, people can do it but it needs to be normalised.'

Episode Summary