CHIPPING Norton’s Emma Bromwich is the only woman employee at Central Tyres, in Horsefair.

The car-mad apprentice, 20, considered university but instead opted for a career in the car mechanics industry and works in the office as well as on the shop floor.

She said: “It’s a lot about the customer because some are more comfortable with females and some with males.”

She said of her colleagues: “There are more sarcastic comments and they are usually from the older men but it’s usually in a jokey way.

“It makes me feel a little uncomfortable but I just take it as a joke.”

Miss Bromwich has an eye on a career in management and added: “I think that females don’t feel comfortable in a male environment and I think it’s because they feel intimidated.

“I think it’s good to have a mix of people in the company.

“But if there were more females I don’t think it would affect me at all because I think that everyone is the same and we should not all have to be in competition so they don’t feel intimidated or awkward.”

City of Oxford College student Carriann Wheeler,19, is the only woman on her painting and decorating course.

The third-year Littlemore student divides her time between working for Oxford City Council and her studies. She is currently working on a college project to renovate part of the city’s Town Hall alongside a team of 15 men. She said: “I think the men actually look after you more.

“I’m so much younger that a lot of them and they look after me a lot more than people think. It’s brilliant, I find them really easy going. It’s nice to think sometimes that they are looking out for me but I don’t think they are looking out for me because I’m a woman.”

She said: “A lot of them they are so good at what they do, it doesn’t really matter what sex they are.

“I look up to them anyway because of what they have done and how far they have come.

“But it would be nice to see more females.”

Miss Wheeler said she thought the male-dominated environment may be the reason so few women enter the industry.

She added: “Building sites get a reputation for males being a bit boisterous and I think women don’t want to put themselves in that sort of awkward situation.

“A lot of the women need the reassurance that they are not going to be treated differently, and they will do the job as good as any man would.”


PLUMBER Petra O’Brien, from London, often travels to Oxford for her work with national firm Stopcocks Women’s Plumbers.

The 36-year-old said she would not enjoy working in a male-dominated environment after experiencing negativity from men within the trade.

She said: “If I was not working for myself I would have probably quit by now. The whole atmosphere, I would not be able to take it. We should not have to go out to work and feel belittled and small. It’s about equal opportunities.

“We should be able to do what we want regardless of whether it is a male dominated career path or not.

“There’s no point saying everyone is equal and then nothing happening.”

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  • Petra O’Brien

The mother-of-two said school pupils were not encouraged enough to enter manual trade professions.

She said: “They are not informed enough when they are going through secondary school. They need the variety.”


EMMA Gordon, centre manager at sustainability and reuse centre Bicester Green, has launched a pilot course to encourage more women to try their hand at DIY.

The ladies-only sessions are taking place between June and July and aims to provide women with the confidence to independently handle household tasks.

The centre runs projects to reuse items like furniture.

Miss Gordon, 29, who lives on narrow boat and is currently moored at Wolvercote, Oxford, said: “We wanted to try and break the gender divide.

“We don’t want them to have to call on a man to have to put up shelves. We want them to do it themselves. It’s about taking charge of our own environment.

The Oxford Times:

  • From left, Shena Crozier, Becky Lake, Emma Gordon, Helena Gleeson, instructor Peter Myers, back, Lauren Dean, Alison Holland, Julie McNair and Mina Katouzian

“I want girls to be able to fix things as well as men and if we do that it will be a good start for us getting a bit more equal. We have to stand up for ourselves.”

Growing up with a brother, Miss Gordon said her upbringing may have had an influence on her attitudes towards women’s independence.

She said: “My father made sure that when there was log to chop up we both got a go.

“So I get a lot of enjoyment being able to use a drill and looking at a piece of furniture and knowing how to fix it.”


PAINTER and decorator Lou Griffiths, from Greater Leys, Oxford, trades under the name Lady Lou.

Ms Griffiths, who was featured in the Oxford Mail last year, said she never considered her job as a man’s job and has received positive responses to being a female decorator.

She said: “I think it works in my favour, especially with female customers – they feel more comfortable with another woman coming in to their home.

“Men can sometimes be a bit baffled, but then just get on with it when they see I’m more than capable.

The Oxford Times:

  • Painter and decorator Lou Griffiths runs her own company

“There’s no reason why it should only be a man’s job and I would definitely recommend it to other women."

Ms Griffiths grew up with a family background in manual trade, including a father who was a builder, a grandad who was a carpenter and mother who was a soft furnisher.

She said: “I was always hanging around the building site with dad or at the mill with grandad after school, so I just felt comfortable in that sort of environment.”

Not satisfied with tackling one male-dominated profession, Ms Griffiths completed a two-year City and Guilds plumbing course last year.


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