Kelly Cartwright – If you don’t fit in the box, who gives a hoot!?

My name is Kelly Cartwright… I was born and bred in Norfolk in 1992, I  was educated in the village of Mulbarton and later Hethersett, before completing my A Levels at Norwich’s City College. I entered the recruitment industry at the age of 17 and launched my own business six years later, after spells with two national recruitment firms.

Anyone that knows recruitment, knows that no two days are the same! 

Being honest, from a young age I have never conformed to the “norm”, but I was exposed to the truth of running a business from a young age because of my parents. I fell into the industry, as once I had passed her exams I had a job lined up within advertising and marketing but my initial interest for the industry kept me hooked… never went to the marketing agency and I have now been involved for 13 years! Since starting within construction, my passion for the industry has just grown over time. I think every day I have been involved with the industry the love for it just grows, I guess it’s like a plant, the more you water it over time, the bigger and stronger it grows. 

The biggest obstacle I have had to overcome is being a woman in a man’s world. We all know I dont fit the pretty little pink fluffy box, of what a woman “should” be doing. Society loves to tell you what you should do. But trying to fit in, will make you miserable. It will kill your potential. Be YOU and break those stereotypes! If you don’t fit the box, who gives a hoot. There’s only one place that box belongs!! As the female head of a growing recruitment business, I believe that it is only by people like me talking about the need for diversity in the construction industry that representation will improve. Both men and women think that construction is not a suitable industry for a woman – and it is interesting that even women think that… and therefore, they don’t explore it as an option, I think that it is important that people like me, are able to stand out there and say – Look at me, I have done this. I have managed to run a successful business, I have an incredible company that is continuing to scale up. It can be done by a woman. I always say, “You can’t be, what you can’t see!”

I have been challenged on construction sites and in meetings about what I could contribute and my understanding of the industry. You do question whether you should be there. It can knock your confidence. But that is where the support comes in; being reminded by your friends/family/network about how good you are. You have to believe in yourself. I have also noticed that the more successful you are, the more forceful and vocal people are with their opinions. And I have realised that the sad truth is that there are plenty of people who want to see you fail. These are people who may feel threatened by you, or may be people who you thought were friends and good contacts. They will find fault with anything and everything to put you and your business down.

Aside from this, my own mental health and anxiety has raised its ugly head! Talking is important. Conversations have the power to change lives, helping to create supportive communities where we can talk openly about mental health and feel empowered to seek help when we need it, especially when you realise you aren’t alone. So, I openly posted about her anxiety rash and all… Just because I am a strong business women, trailblazing within a male dominated industry, doesn’t mean I am superhuman.  Guess what, I am just a normal human being.. Just like you! And just like you, I have her triggers; A big business deal. A public speaking event. An awards evening. Hosting a corporate event. Basically any opportunity that I feel like I don’t belong – imposter syndrome sets in, and as my team say her red mate rears its ugly head! Opening up the conversation about mental health & wellbeing is so important – by talking about it we can support ourselves and others. This year, following on from this – I spoke with Gavin Crane from Band of Builders about how us as a business could support them, and promote the brands important message. We have placed the Band of Builders Helpline across 2000 pieces of our 2023 merchandise which has been delivered to hundreds of sites, all to show that people are not alone, and there is their text service BoB if they need to speak to someone 24/7. 

You can buckle under the pressure and cry yourself to sleep at night or you can use it as a motivation, and as confirmation that you are actually doing something very right. In fact, criticism has been the making of Kelly. Maybe that’s because she is competitive, maybe that’s because she’s naturally determined, but it has helped her develop resilience and the ability to stay above those who are determined to drag her down. 

The best advice she has, is to remember to treat any negativity that comes your way as a challenge, that if you can shrug it off, and carry on regardless, it will make you a better entrepreneur, and a better person. 

And it is worth remembering that because you have actually achieved something, gone out there and shaken the status quo, you are always likely to have upset or unsettled someone. That’s business, it is competitive, and you have to expect these things. You get used to it.

An important initiative that I feel passionate about in my role is attracting the younger generation into construction, the opportunities are not promoted enough, girls think its for boys, or if you arent very academic and won’t achieve good grades should go into construction. From a school level, construction isn’t a highly promoted industry, especially to women. Kelly recognised this issue and has teamed up with Anglia LEP to deliver Stereotype Busting Sessions, where she collates a group of individuals, dressed in the same attire and students have to guess what industries they are in. As you can imagine the typical responses… male, construction, and mechanics. Female, hairdressers, teachers etc. The message behind this exercise is to open up the minds of these young people to show them anything is possible, and you can follow whatever passion you have. Not what you think you should do.

I feel there is nothing great about being a femail in my role. Infact, it makes it harder! 

I love to travel, see the world, explore new places. This year I have taken up shooting too! (again something that isn’t very female led) I have always been Little Miss Competitive

The mantra I live my life by would be

“You can’t be, what you can’t see.”

I think everyone I have met along my journey has given me snippets of adivce from their journey, you can learn something from everyone. My Key motivators are wanting to prove everyone wrong! 

Be YOU and break those stereotypes! If you don’t fit the box, who gives a hoot. There’s only one place that box belongs! We all make mistakes! You have to own it. I have made some terrible decisions as a manager but I have also made some fantastic ones. No one gets it right all the time!

What would I say to my 16-year-old self?

Be open minded, take every opportunity that comes your way as you never know what path it may take you down.

Describe what feminism is to you.

Gender doesn’t define you. 

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