Kate Royce – ‘You only get what you give’

#YesSheCan speaks to Kate Royce – Account Director at Ibstock brick an FTSE 250 company on a day in her life, overcoming setbacks and being a woman in a male-dominated industry.


Can you tell us a bit about you and your career:

I hold the position of Key Account Director at Ibstock brick an FTSE 250 company, responsible for the sales to the UK’s largest house builders which makes up a large proportion of the Ibstock business. I’m fortunate to do this along with a team of great people. In my spare time, I am also studying for my degree at Derby University (supported by Ibstock) which is a long way from where I started out, having left school with 4 GCSEs as the result of very difficult childhood. At 19 I started working in the construction industry as a receptionist and quickly realised that hard work and perseverance paid off as I progressed through the ranks. Small successes gave me the drive and hunger to want to continue to succeed and I’ve never looked back. I have been fortunate in having been in commercial and sales roles within some of the UK’s largest construction material suppliers, supported by strong mentors, both male and female who have encouraged me, enabling me to learn and develop in order to thrive.

A typical day in your career:

I liaise with a variety of people including the senior-level decision-makers within the developer customer base either face to face, phone or email. Typically, I will be speaking with colleagues in various departments such as planning, production, and finance in order to provide our customers with the best service in the industry. My role is national so no two days are the same nor is it 9-5 which keeps it interesting and varied.

What made you choose this career/industry?

I decided to continue on a path in this industry has been fortunate enough to find some inspirational leaders and role models along the way, the question was more ‘why shouldn’t I?’ than ‘why should I?’

How did you get to where you are now and did you face any challenges along the way?

I’ve had numerous challenges, including finding myself a few years ago in the unfortunate position of being the ‘whistleblower’, I had no choice but to report how other women were being treated by a senior male colleague, the most difficult period of my career, a defining moment and something I am proud of, the alternative was unthinkable.

If any, can you tell us more about how you overcame those setbacks?

I was supported by other strong leaders with sound values, this ensured that no other women would have to experience the same difficulties in our business. I was motivated by protecting other women, particularly those more junior than me.

What is an important initiative that you feel passionate about in your role?

We have a group in Ibstock supporting women in their careers which has enabled us to engage with other male-dominated sectors such as the police force, I think it’s great to be able to widen our perspective and lead the way in the industry

What do you think gave you the drive and determination to succeed?

A desire to change history! Realising that you don’t have to blindly follow a path from childhood and that you really can do anything you set your mind to.

What’s great about being a female in your role?

Hopefully, my team would agree being female makes me sensitive to some of the issues people face outside of work such as dealing with the care of elderly parents, childcare issues and suchlike. In turn, I believe this attracts loyalty and encourages the positive discretionary behaviours employers seek.

What is your biggest achievement in life?

Overcoming adversity both personally and professionally to get where I am now, sometimes the bad experiences can lead to the good. The challenges give you the opportunity to show what you are made of.

What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way?

To not listen to the negative self-doubt we all experience from time to time, not to complain unless its constructive and also being aware of the negativity of others impacting you

Have you ever felt that your gender has brought unnecessary challenges to your career? Undoubtedly, I can recall numerous conversation and instances where my gender has been an issue, though not always where you would expect, I have never been made to feel uncomfortable on-site or in a factory environment for instance.  I’m pleased to say that my gender no longer feels as if it gets in the way of my career as our business has evolved into one where this (or any other differences) would not hold you back.

Outside your work, what are your favourite hobbies and pastimes?

Between work, Uni, small kids and elderly parents learning to swim and recently signing up to ‘career-ready’ a mentoring scheme for young people, there isn’t a great deal of time for anything else!

Do you have a mantra you live your life by?

‘You only get what you give’

What three tips would you give to young females starting their careers?

Surround yourself with people who support you and value you at home and at work. (I have a very supportive and understanding husband!)

Seek out opportunities to learn and develop

Don’t shy away from a challenge just because you may be out of your comfort zone, those are usually the best opportunities to step up.

Surround yourself with people who support you and value you at home and at work.

What is the best bit of advice that you have ever been given? 

Someone called me out for appearing to be negative which had a huge impact on me and made me evaluate my mindset and how I communicate my frustrations. I was unaware this was how I came across. Having people around you that challenge you and give you constructive feedback is critical to your success.

Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?

There are too many to pick one! I am fortunate enough to be friends with and work with some strong amazing women who work in the public sector and the construction industry who inspire me every day in overcoming their personal, professional challenges whilst doing a great job.

What are your key motivators?

I would also say working for people I can learn from, having the ability to continue to develop in my role and career. Doing a great job for my team and making sure that work provides them with the tools to do a great job making it an enjoyable place to work.

Don’t shy away from a challenge just because you may be out of your comfort zone, those are usually the best opportunities to step up.

Do you think enough is being done by businesses to address gender imbalance?

I think we could do more, but not just policies aimed at women, this is aimed at men too, flexible working policies that enable men to spend time with their families is also enabling women to succeed. I think women are generally more responsible for the caring roles at home (kids and elderly family) and the workplace needs to understand this, couple this with women who are facing menopause later on in their life and it becomes a struggle to keep the plates spinning. Some workplaces are not equipped to deal with those issues but are missing out on some of the best people by not allowing flexibility in the workplace.

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

Seek out people you can learn from and don’t be afraid to ask for opportunities, always volunteer for more as a way of learning new skills

What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?

Read about ‘imposter syndrome’! Generally, the only thing holding you back is you. Seek out people you can learn from and don’t be afraid to ask for opportunities

What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?

You have more influence than you realise and your mood, response and behaviours are what makes the culture of a business not ‘the company’

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

I was made to realise that you have always have a choice in how you respond and behave in any difficult situation, if you are in control of this you can do anything

What would you say to your 16-year-old self?

It gets so much better!

We’ve loved reading Kate’s inspirational story! Read more about powerful women in the construction industry here!

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