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Behind the scenes with...Clare Bland of Marshalls Plc

Clare Bland joined Marshalls in 2018.
How did you find your way into this industry?

I’ve worked in various sectors during my career, from energy to travel to nursery products, and I enjoy learning about a new industry. This means I’ve gained experience within different sectors and been able to identify concepts between industries that I can bring with me. I have always been attracted to big brands that hold a strong position in the market, and due to relocating, I was immediately drawn to Marshalls because of its reputation, what it represented, and its history. 

As somebody who enjoys working in a fast-paced and dynamic environment, my perception of Marshalls as a manufacturing business was that this would be an environment that I would enjoy working within and would fit my skill set. I did consider my lack of experience within the construction industry specifically and the likelihood that Marshalls could be a largely male-dominated environment, but this was momentary and didn’t hold me back. I am so glad it didn’t because, of all the industries I have worked in, construction is by far my favourite. I feel lucky to work with some fantastic people within my division of Marshalls Mortars & Screeds; the teamwork and commitment to the business objectives are unmatched.

Have you ever felt your gender has held you back?

I think every woman in the workplace or everyday life can be a victim of gender stereotyping. Whether it's missing out on career opportunities and progression or being pigeonholed as only suitable for certain jobs, this can influence the kind of roles that you might apply for in future. I don’t want to conform to any perceived idea of who I should be, and this gives me a sense of personal freedom, both professionally and personally. That said, I have certainly struggled with a lack of self-confidence during my career and have been too self–critical; as women, we can sometimes focus too much on what we think we don’t do well rather than what we do brilliantly. Every milestone in my career has brought feelings of imposter syndrome, and women tend to suffer more from this than men. Moving into the operational side of Marshalls from customer services was one of these instances, but I am very proud to have conquered this, and I would urge all women not to let feelings of self-doubt hold them back from new challenges.

Often, women can be overlooked when opportunities arise due to biases around other responsibilities they may have. It has taken real commitment to balance the demands of being a parent and furthering my career. Whilst I continue to navigate this, it impacted me more when my children were younger, and my circumstances dictated how much time I could give to my career. I have been very fortunate that within Marshalls, I have male allies who have advocated for me and empowered me to grow and develop. I think working within Marshalls has been the first instance where I really feel I have been given due credit for my skills and achievements, and this is a big reason why I continue working within this business. Having experienced being at the other end of the spectrum in other organisations, male allyship in Marshalls has enabled me to flourish.

What would you say to other women wanting to pursue a career in construction?

I’d say don’t assume that because you don’t have a construction background, you wouldn’t be suitable for a career in construction. Joining a new industry can enable you to broaden your knowledge and enhance your cross-industry experience, and many skills are transferrable. As a woman it can be easy to make assumptions about the construction industry, not just about what kinds of roles may be available but also about what the culture may be like. Personally, I have found it hugely rewarding to be working within an environment that has challenged my preconceived ideas, particularly around working in a male-dominated environment.

I think it’s an exciting time for the construction industry; materials and products are constantly being reinvented to respond to consumer trends or demands, and there’s a real drive to make things more sustainable, too.  This means there is so much scope to improve processes, allow for creativity within operations, and really drive a conscientious approach across a business. Working in construction can be hard work and fast-paced due to timescales and projects that suppliers and customers are working hard to meet, but the industry is full of down-to-earth and welcoming people who can be underestimated in terms of how they respect and encourage diversity.

The construction industry is making strides in cultivating diverse teams and addressing not only internal gender bias within the workforce but also policies and organisational strategies that seek to promote inclusivity and diversity across the board. Marshalls is demonstrating a commitment to this with its diversity and inclusion policy, which encompasses all the protected characteristics that you would see in a diverse workforce and drives forward its DERI strategy.

Are you part of any networking groups that help other women progress?

A women’s network group was founded in Marshalls four years ago, and I’ve been a part of it from the start. The group was the first of its kind within Marshalls and it’s enabled me to connect with other women across the Marshalls Group who I might never have met otherwise. This is significant as some members are the only women working in their particular function, and it is essential to have the opportunity to not only network but also a chance to reflect on shared experiences and cultivate connections. It’s also provided opportunities for me to act as a mentor to women within Marshalls; it’s so important for women to nurture and support one another, and in sharing my own experiences and how I have approached my own development, I can encourage other women to seek out opportunity and develop that all-important self-confidence. We invite guest speakers into our group from outside of Marshalls and these are women who have made significant achievements both inside and outside of the construction industry. 

These stories and insights are so powerful, and they really propel us as individuals and as a group to value our own resilience and what may be possible to achieve. It really is true that to ‘be it’, you do need to ‘see it’, and broadening our network allows us to be aware of the fantastic women who are charting a path for others to follow. Whilst we recognise that it is important to have a group that represents women across Marshalls, in 2024, we wanted to incorporate our male allies and enable conversation on gender, which should include the voice of our male colleagues and represent collaboration. It is great this year to now have male allies with us, and again, it is so powerful and significant to begin to have a collective understanding or commitment to gender diversity within construction.

Marshalls can trace its history back to the 1890s.
What is Marshalls doing to create an inclusive company?

Marshalls is an inclusive business because it fosters an environment where diversity is valued and every individual feels respected, heard, and empowered to contribute. This has involved the business creating policies and practices that actively promote equity and accessibility across all levels of the organisation. Key elements have been implementing unbiased recruitment processes and ensuring equal opportunities for advancement and professional development. Marshalls also seeks input from a diverse range of perspectives within the workforce. 

As an organisation, Marshalls wants to create a culture of inclusion, While there is always more that can be done, as a business, we are considering inclusivity within all our people's activities. Additionally and very important to me personally,  Marshalls promotes a culture of respect and zero tolerance for harassment or discrimination, ensuring that women feel safe and valued in the workplace. By fostering a supportive women’s network and encouraging women's voices in decision-making processes, Marshalls is not only empowering female employees but it is benefiting from diverse perspectives that drive innovation and growth. To be a business of the future that can attract and cultivate female talent, Marshalls continues to value inclusivity and diversity so that it can reflect the multi-faceted society that we all live in.

Clare Bland
National Operations Manager, Marshalls plc

Clare Bland is a National Operations Manager for Marshalls Mortars & Screeds, part of Marshalls Group. She’s worked for the company since 2018 and moved into the operations side of the business, from customer services, in 2021. Clare arrived at Marshalls without previous experience in manufacturing or construction. In her day-to-day role, she is one of only a few women, but she prioritises networking across the business and is a key part of the Marshalls Women and Allies Network.