Dion Martin has no doubt what it means to be a female electrician at Osborne Property Services. ‘Empowerment, empowerment, empowerment!’ declares the 38-year-old.
As a mother, her message couldn’t be more fitting for International Women’s Day, held today [Friday] to celebrate women’s achievements and call for greater equality.
Dion urges other women to pick up tools and train as a sparky. “It would be the proudest thing you’ve ever done and the most rewarding. I feel empowered now I’m an electrician. I won’t ever have to call anyone out to do my electrics,” she says.
Dion joined Osborne in 2014 after qualifying as an electrician at Bromley College, south-east London. She is now part of the eight-strong team of electricians who repair and maintain housing association properties belonging to Affinity Sutton Group in Bromley.
Just months into the job she won an Osborne Customer Service Champion of Champions award – and puts the achievement down to being a woman.
“Part of why I won that was because some of the old ladies we deal with are much more comfortable dealing with a female electrician.
“They say: ‘I’m so glad you’re not a man’, because sometimes whatever’s happened to them with men in their lives means they feel more comfortable with another woman in the house.
“This one lady was in a big panic because her landline wasn’t working and she didn’t have a mobile. She gave me the money and I went to buy her a phone from Argos. I was running down the high street in Orpington because I still only had a 60-minute slot to finish the job!”
Dion admits she’s needed a thick skin to deal with some of her male clients – but that she’s slowly changing their attitudes towards female tradespeople.
“Your old-school kind of man will always say, ‘are you sure you can do that love?’. My answer is to do my job quickly and effectively, and thoroughly. That’s how you break them down.
“When I arrive, they think I’ve come to read the meter. They never, ever, think I’m the electrician – but the next time they call up and say ‘can I have that lady again?’.”
She says she’s always felt supported by her male Osborne colleagues, who call her ‘a rose amongst the thorns’.
And Osborne ensures the job doesn’t interfere with being a mum to her 12-year-old daughter, making sure Dion isn’t allocated jobs after 7pm, for example.
“Don’t be put off if you have children,” Dion advises other women. “When I started training, my daughter was five, and getting your head around all that maths and equations was the hardest thing. But through sheer grit and hard work, I got there in the end.”