Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Women in Business

With a recent report showing that women are likely to earn over £300,000 less than men over the course of their lives, gender equality in many aspects of the workplace will continue to be a major topic of conversation and a key driver for any modern organisation.

The term “the glass ceiling” means “the unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.”

Forbes states that almost 4 in 10 businesses in G7 countries have no women in senior management roles. Reportedly, the share of senior roles held by women stands at 24%.

Outside of leadership, casual gender discrimination in the office is still a concern in some industries, particularly traditionally male-dominated sectors such as engineering, technology and work in manual trades. Secretarial work has been referred to as ‘one of the last bastions of acceptable sexism’ with candidates expected to dress “to house style”, be “presentable” (which can often mean wearing heels) and have a “neutral accent” (middle-class, non-regional.)

Here at Ductbusters, we’re proud to present one of our very own leaders as a success and role model for women in business: meet Gemma Quinn, Managing Director. Initially joining as part of the family business seeing it through to becoming a nationally successful enterprise, Gemma has been with Ductbusters for nearly 18 years – with her experience spanning administrative support all the way up to leadership level. We sat Gemma down to discuss her career so far and her opinions on gender equality in the workplace:


What do you feel are the biggest personal challenges you’ve faced throughout your career as a leading woman in business?


Coming into a family business as “the boss’ daughter”, people rolled their eyes and thought I was in for a smooth ride. Wrong. I worked from the bottom up: I started as an administrator answering the phone, making the tea and general office duties. I took my career into my hands, went to night school to learn computerised accounts, I ventured out into the business to learn aspects of the work the company performed when on site and managed a full rollout of digital systems across the business single-handedly.


I have covered all aspects of the business bar the engineers’ work but have a comprehensive understanding having grown up with a father who has always worked in the industry … I was held equally as accountable as any of my male counterparts for the fall-downs in the business and similarly encouraged to aim high and achieve my ambitions.


When I first started with Ductbusters in 1999 it was a male-dominated industry, and I have met a fair few aggressive characters – which never phased me – but I feel a lot of them would have liked to see me fail. Not only was I female but I was also the boss’ daughter.


How did you achieve everything you have achieved, and what helped you along the way?


My family have all been supportive throughout my career, especially when I decided to have children. I had six months’ maternity leave with both children but still came into the office intermittently during that time. People often assume once you have kids you won’t come back to work or will only work part-time.


With the support of my family, I managed to be a good mother and have a thriving career.


 What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?


Historically I feel that, in this industry, masculine attitudes have been the biggest challenge to women succeeding, but these obstacles are falling. Not entirely – but we are making a breakthrough!


How would you like to see your industry flourish in the next 5 years?


I would like to see our industry backed by insurance companies to make it a legal obligation for businesses to undergo ductwork cleaning –  we work to a specification (TR19) but if this were a legal requirement, our brand awareness would reach new heights, and demonstrate the importance of our work.


What, in your opinion, will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of women?


Traditional male views of women in the workplace will remain a constant challenge though I think this can be said for any industry. Outside of this, family circumstances are prevalent: it’s not just men. My fiancé became the full-time carer for our children so my career could flourish, however mother and toddler groups, playgroups and childcare activities are all marketed at a female consumer, and it can be difficult for men to jump into to this role.


What is the best decision you’ve ever made?


The best decision I ever made was to leave a job that made me miserable – I came to work for Ductbusters and have been here for nearly 18 years. This commitment enabled me to introduce most of the systems, assisting in driving our current growth. I can’t say I’ve ever had a day where I’ve not wanted to come to work; I love my job, and I am ambitious for both myself and the future of the company. I’ve watched the business grow from an enterprise started on my dad’s kitchen table and have played a big part in its success. I hope my children (both a boy and a girl!) will have a future in Ductbusters if they should want it.


It’s clear that universal gender equality across all business is still a way off – but we at Ductbusters are advocates for equality and diversity: our services are backed by a fully regulated, comfortable and open environment where we are all encouraged to bring our whole selves to work.

Contact us via our website or call us today on 0800 085 0403.



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