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“What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this” blog by Jess Martin – International Womens Day 2024

March 08, 2024

By Jess Martin, General Manager at Vergo

At my secondary school in PE, the boys played rugby and we played netball, the boys did cricket and we got rounders, they had football and we had hockey. We couldn’t trade our PE skirts and netball knickers for studded boots and cricket whites even if we wanted to, and without even realising, that’s where it began.

Now, being put in a pink and sparkly box is not something that was ever on my agenda. So, I muscled my way into the boy’s football matches at break and insisted that I could join in with the games played on grass that were largely kept from me. (Was the assumption that my delicate little female feet couldn’t possibly touch the grassy ground unless it was to pick flowers for daisy chains?) I showed repeatedly that I could in fact “play like a girl” years before the iconic Always advert hit our screens.

In 2019, the UK reached 1 million women in core STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) occupations. When I was going to uni 10 years before that the number was over a third less. I could count on one hand the number of women I knew who were going to study STEM subjects. A world that was unfortunately still marketed as “not for us”. By last year, women were counted to make up 27% of the STEM workforce. Inching towards the magic 30% that has been hailed as the magic number to cause change in an industry. But although there has been a huge increase in women graduating with degrees in STEM subjects, they are still facing walking into a workplace where there are two men in the room for every one of them.

Something that 10 years in the pest industry I am very used to. My career started straight out of university with my line manager taking me to try on boots, having me walk up and down just like we did in Clarkes in our new school shoes. The reason being there was minimal choice in ladies’ safety footwear. Attending male-dominated sites where “What’s a nice young girl like you doing in a place like this?’ and literally not having a suitable toilet to use were commonplace.

As a woman, we have to be passionate but not emotional, caring but not flirty, driven in the workplace but also a great mum. When comparing myself to my colleagues, I feel a million emotions, but mainly I feel tired, and I feel like I work harder just because I am a woman.

Now here’s the thing though, sure you could get on the ‘it’s unfair train’ or what I have chosen to do is use this. Find yourself a place like Vergo Pest Management, a place where people don’t see gender they see talent, passion and hard work. Because here that hard work has meant I have been promoted in the first 6 months of being here. Because when you’re not working hard to hide your differences, you put that hard work elsewhere and I am now the first female General Manager in our team.

I firmly believe that my differences as a woman make me a strong manager, I am emotionally invested in all my team and customers alike this drives me to be better and do better for them all every day. I can multi-task, I’m empathetic, I’m cooperative but I’m also driven, logical, and methodical.

I have never been managed by a woman, which is something that I am changing for the women I manage today. I have, however, currently got the next best thing in my line manager right now; on the surface he’s ‘blokey’ however, he’s never once seen me as a ‘girl’ he doesn’t change for me; he accepts me for exactly who I am he joins me in celebrating everything that’s different about me. Most of all, when I need any support for my young kids or problems often only us ladies suffer… He doesn’t shy away all embarrassed he supports, empathises, and gives me the time I need and rightly deserve.

I have never been one to fit in, nor will I ever be. That doesn’t mean I don’t think we still have a long way to go to make things fairer and easier for women in male-dominated industries, but I know that I am in exactly the right role and company to help make those changes and ensure I thrive as a woman in Pest control. And that is the exact reason a girl like me is in a place like this!

Are you a woman considering a career in Pest? Feel free to connect with me on Linkedin, and I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have about the wonderful world of pest management!

Pictured below is Jess and her Vergo team and Jess with her children.

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