S Roberts and Granddaughters
Vicky Owens has defied gender stereotyping to rise to the role of Director of Asbestos and Demolition at S Roberts & Sons. She has helped to establish us as a hugely successful £6.5 million turnover business involved with skip hire, waste recycling, licensed asbestos removal, demolition and tipper lorry hire. This is her story.
“My sister Beccy and I lost our mother to cancer when we were teenagers, leaving us her company shares. We both wanted to support our father in the business and went into it straight after school. We both spent ten years cutting our teeth and both took over the reins from our father at ages 30 and 29 respectively.
“Things were very different when I first started here in 1993 and I recall being very daunted. But in reality it was ultimately beneficial, as being female meant I stood out from the crowd and got noticed. I never felt the need to act like a man. I was determined to forge my own path.
“Women can bring just as much to the table, but often from a different perspective. They tend to be more creative, collaborative and, most importantly, communicative. We’re also a bit softer around the edges and understanding, particularly when it comes to working mothers – we have quite a few of these in our employ.
“Sometimes, when I go to site meetings with people I’ve never met before, I feel I’m being judged. But I have accumulated so much knowledge in the industry that as soon as I start talking gender issues just go immediately out of the window.
“Fifteen years ago we were the first demolition company in the south west to launch a licensed asbestos removal division, which has been instrumental to the growth of the business. This is the department I run, and it kept us extremely busy during the first lockdown at Yeovil Hospital, removing asbestos to create more ward space for Covid patients.
“We were fortunate that the skip hire side of our business has thrived during lockdown. As March 2020 brought an early summer, many consumers turned the time they had at home to DIY, massively increasing the number of skips that were hired.
“Because of our asbestos works we had a huge bank of disposable overalls and face masks at our disposal. When we heard about the chronic shortage of PPE, we were delighted to help by delivering large batches to Sedgemoor District Council, as well as the local hospital, to keep their workers safe. It was great to be able to do what little we could to help.
“We don’t plan to change the name of the business. It was started by my grandfather, S Roberts, so it would mean the company would need to be renamed ‘S Roberts & Sons & Granddaughters’ which would probably make it a bit of a mouthful and more than a little challenging for those who answer the phone! And if, as I hope, my daughter Evie who has just completed a degree in accountancy comes on board, that will add yet another layer of tongue twisting complexity. I think we’ll stay as we are for now!”