For International Women's Day we asked questions to a lot of women who work in the groundskeeping or gardening industry about their work. This time it's Sue Benson from Lord Williams's School.
How long have you been working in this industry?
I have been working at Lord Williams’s School for over 15 years. Approximately 8 years ago a position opened up in the PE Faculty which meant a varied, outdoor opportunity which I have always preferred. As an avid cricketer for many years, preparing pitches was always an interest.
What does the average day look like for you?
As Lord Williams’s School is one of the few state secondary schools in Oxfordshire to have a full, 10 strip grass square I am sure you can appreciate I have many hats to wear during a working day. I am a part time Key Skills teacher as well as being responsible for square maintenance and curriculum support.
During the Spring and Summer my working day is spent preparing the facilities for school matches and external hirers. The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) comes to Lord Williams’s School for an annual fixture, so this is a big event for the school!
Early morning, it’s all the basics of brushing dew, watering old pitches, getting to work repairing and then preparing new pitches. I do keep a log of grass growth and monitor its condition so I can work out what fertiliser I will need.
At this point I would like to credit Simon Tremlin at Wormsley Cricket Club and Mark Hobley @Hobley77 who have been brilliant at listening to me and advising me on techniques, skills and chemicals.
What would you say is the biggest challenge working in this industry/Have you faced any challenges being a female in a male dominated environment?
I don’t mind being in a male dominated environment and the majority of people who work in our industry are exceptionally helpful.
The biggest challenge is that some people are not so convinced I know what I am doing. It has taken a few years to show several people that I do know what I’m doing! But, even now, some still question my skill set. For example, a pitch inspector came to check my square, he did not initially speak to me but to a colleague who was male and who had no idea about turf. Eventually, after a few frosty points were made, he spoke directly to me and we eventually became friendly, but this is a typical situation I face regularly.
Why did you choose to work in this industry?
Honestly it was luck more than judgment that I began working in the cricket square turf industry. It is true I love playing cricket and have always had a curiosity for the pitch so when the post was advertised it seemed just right for me. It keeps me on my toes, something is always happening and developing and there is always something to learn. Plus, I’m outside a lot more often than not which is always a benefit.
What advice would you give to women wanting to join the industry?
My advice to anyone would be to keep doing it, keep talking to people and know that you are doing a great job. There are some wonderful people out there who will help you and believe in you so leave the nay sayers behind and stride forward Girl!
Finally, what is the best part about working in this industry?
The best part is being outside. Once a pitch has been finished, and just before the game starts, looking at the facilities and how great the grass looks is so rewarding. I have a lot of pride in what I do.
Find Sue on Twitter @suetbenson