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Casestudy: Vicky Cavinue

Why do we still consider certain job roles are specifically for men or women? After all it is the 21st century!!

The Horticultural Industry and specifically Sports Turf Greenkeeping is predominantly staffed by males and it may be due to females not knowing enough about the job or just not considering it as an option. Lesley Lowrie Managing Director at GOSTA Training thought it would be interesting to speak to their first female Modern Apprentice who was featured in a magazine article some 18 years ago. We have added the original article and then some questions put to Vicky to gain her thoughts on the industry from a female perspective.

Vicky featured in a magazine article some 18 years ago

Can you tell us a bit about how you came into Greenkeeping in the first place?

I was still at school desperate to leave! I was meeting the careers officer on a weekly basis and was fortunate enough to be put forward for 6 interviews all of which were office based. This was something that just did not interest me. At the time my Dad worked at a golf club as a bar steward and he told me of an apprenticeship in Greenkeeping which was coming up. I applied for it knowing nothing about golf or what a Greenkeeper actually did. I went for an interview and left feeling really excited about working outdoors, working with machinery and being part of a team (all of which were men but I didn't stop to think about that). I then attended GOSTA for an aptitude test which I passed and there I was a female apprentice Greenkeeper at Colville Park Motherwell!!

Where did you do your training?

I spent over 3 years at Colville Park learning all the aspects of Greenkeeping. I attended GOSTA 2 days per week in the winter months completing my SVQ Level 2 and quickly followed onto SVQ Level 3. I seemed to understand and do the job really well with the help of the head Greenkeeper and his First Assistant. GOSTA was a great influence on my career. Everyone was so encouraging and believed in me. The education side was first class and I believe I would not be where I am today without the knowledge I gained from the courses. Everything related to the workplace and I could take back what I had learned each week.

Where has your career taken you to work so far?

After my apprenticeship ended I took up my first qualified role as an Assistant Greenkeeper at Williamwood Golf Club. I then moved to Hamilton Golf Club where I was promoted to First Assistant and it was here that I achieved my spraying and chainsaw certificates. After 3 years I moved down South, joining the team at Lilly Brook Golf Club in Cheltenham and after a couple of years moved to Shirley Golf Club in Birmingham where I got my first managerial role. I was so pleased to hit this point in my career!! I worked with a great Course Manager who had complete faith in my abilities. The day to day running of the course was such a pleasure and I enjoyed every minute.

I now work at Harborne Golf Club; I’ve been here for three years working under the course manager, Jim Gilchrist, who is also my partner!! You can imagine the conversation around the dinner table!! We get on great and work brilliantly together.

How did you feel you were treated as a female within the industry back then and how about now?

When I first started my career back in Colville Park, I wasn’t treated differently to the other guys and I feel that this helped me progress the way I did. Again at Williamwood Golf Club the other staff (all male) were great and treated me no differently. They were shocked by my physical ability as I weighed around 7 stone and had a tiny frame; looks can be very deceiving!!

There are obvious physical differences between male and female but this was never an issue when it came to the job. What I lacked in muscle, I made up for in other ways! Now there is nothing I can't do that a male Greenkeeper can.

Has your perception about being a female in a male dominated industry changed over the years?

The job of a Greenkeeper may be male dominated but it is certainly a career that a female can pursue. For example, if something is too heavy then you probably shouldn't be lifting it anyway!! There are many tasks which I carry out that males may find difficult but working together as part of a team makes it all possible. I am just as strong as them in many ways!!

I have only ever been discriminated against by the older generation and I would receive comments here and there. For example “women never used to be allowed on the golf course to play, never mind work on it" or "should you be lifting that?” or “you might find it difficult in the winter because it gets really cold you know”. These are just a few of the things I've laughed off over the years. I found that the younger generation didn't see me any differently and would just carry on the way they would if I were a male. If I wanted to stand out I probably could have but I was there to learn a career and do it to the same standard no matter which sex I was. I will always get the odd stare and shocked looked from time to time but I find it amusing.

We are looking to promote the industry to females in an effort to redress the gender imbalance. What advice would you give other women thinking about this type of career and how would you encourage them? Would you encourage them?

I would encourage any female considering a career in Greenkeeping to go for it! The great outdoors and working with Mother Nature everyday can be a different challenge. In Greenkeeping there are many qualifications to achieve, great opportunities to work abroad and I find that simply just being part of a team is very rewarding. Do not let gender be an issue - I never let it hold me back!!

Is there a difference working south of the border as opposed to the north?

I don't feel that the job is much different south of the border apart from the weather.

How do you cope with the physically demanding aspects of the job?

5 years ago I gave birth to my son George and this was the only time in my career where I had to take a step back and let others do things for me (heavy lifting etc). I worked right up until a week before I gave birth which proves that the job is manageable in many circumstances. I went back to work full time after 8 months and was glad I did. My son is now 5 and I still have a brilliant career. Being a mum has had no effect on what I do and why should it!

If you were starting out again, would you still make the same career choice?

I love it and would do it all over again. I have a wonderful family and the best job!