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Sarah Cutler is proof you don't have to be male to master a trade
IT is up there as one of the most male-dominated and testosterone-fuelled industries out there.
There are the stereotypes of mid-morning fry ups, boys' banter, clouds of dust, not to mention the builders' bums.
So when Sarah Cutler turns up with her tools on a building site, she's used to everything from raised eyebrows to outright insults.
“Oh I have had it all “, Sarah says.
“I've turned up to the job and I've had 'who's actually doing the tiling?'
“When I said to one guy it was me, he very quickly rounded up the quote and told me he'd probably find time to do it himself.
“I've had builders lingering around at the door having a good old look, which I know they'd never do to a bloke.
“I've even heard people say 'that's not bad for a girl!'
“There is definitely that stereotype that it's a man's world.”
But Sarah, who set up her own tiling company after being bored in an office job, is turning that stereotype on its head.
For her, hauling heavy tiles, getting to grips with grout and grappling power tools are part of her working day.
And she wouldn't change it for the world.
“I've got two hands like everyone else so I can tile a bathroom.
“Don't get me wrong I will ache most days of the week. Once I had to fit 55 metres of tiles that were 900mm high. That's a lot of tile.
“I can be in agony by the time I get home at night. But I go to bed with a smile on my face feeling satisfied.
“Now my life is my own. I totally love it. There are a million rewards for running your own business.”
It's hard to believe six years ago the 34-year-old worked in an office answering phones and doing paperwork.
“It just wasn't for me. I'd absolutely dread my jobs, I'd clock watch. There would be tears in the car on the way in.
“But I knew only I could make that change,” she says.
Her break came when she was inspired by a female building surveyor she met while working at the University of Southampton.
“She was a woman in a man's world and I suddenly realised it was open to me.
“Certainly my parents would never ever have thought of a trade for one of their daughters.
“She told me you can do anything if you put your mind to it. From then on it was so easy.”
Sarah completed an intensive tiling course where she lived on site working from 8am until 7pm with the all male trainees before setting up her own tiling business called Sarah The Tiler.
“You can either sit there making all the excuses in the world, one of them being it's a man's world or you can just get up and go and do it. You might have to take the odd comment on the chin but it doesn't bother me at all.
“All the years of college and school and retakes and failings, searching for jobs - it all seemed completely insignificant.”
Five years later she is established in her industry with a glowing reputation for her skill for design and fitting tiles in the New Forest.
And rather than taking notice of the discriminatory comments, she actually puts her success down to being a woman.
Some people call her purely because she is female.
“It's absolutely not a man's world.
“Being a woman makes you more approachable.
“I had no idea my career would kick off in the way it has.
“We are going to take it over”, she laughs.
“There was probably a niche in the market for a woman to tile but there was definitely a niche in the market for a tradesman to be reliable, and that was the one thing I was aiming to cover, and I pride myself on that.
“I'm not sure the world needs more women doing these typically male jobs but the world does need to accept if a woman wants to do something different, then it's okay.”
But though she may beat the boys at their own game, that doesn't mean she has to do it with bad hair and make-up.
“Going out on a Friday night still takes me an hour to get ready,” she laughs.
“I love putting a nice dress on, wearing my hair down and curly, putting on makeup and wining and dining like the rest of the girls.
“Noone would know.
“In fact it shocks a lot of people when I'm out and about and I say I'm a tiler. “They think they have misheard me.”
But don't get the wrong impression.
Sarah, who has renovated properties and enjoys physical building work and DIY is not to be messed with.
As we chat Sarah explains the roof on the property she renovated and rents has collapsed due to the severe flooding.
“Once the scaffolding is up, I'll be up on that roof checking it's all done okay, damn right.”
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