To celebrate International Women’s Day, we speak to three of our Steeldeckers about their experience in the industry and the challenges and opportunities to make it more gender inclusive. First up is our Regional Director, Katie Mountain.

Tell us about your role at Steeldeck

I am Regional Director of the Manchester branch of Steeldeck Rentals. We opened in March 2018 and have (pre-covid) been going from strength to strength and working on many and varied projects throughout the North West and beyond. I have a small but excellent team in Manchester. Before opening the Manchester Branch, I was a Project Manager in the London office.

What do you enjoy most about it?

The people mostly – meeting new people and working with different people. From the staff at Manchester and London to working with new clients and suppliers and building lasting relationships.

I also enjoy the variety of work that we do at Steeldeck, and that at any time you could be either in a TV studio, Grade I Listed Building, school sports hall, festival field or private residence – and each of the projects are just as important as each other and meaningful for each different client.

Are there particular kinds of projects that you enjoy working on more than others?  

I like a challenge – but these come in all shapes and sizes, so it could be a complex structure, a difficult schedule or building – something I can get my teeth into. I also enjoy the engineering side of what we do – getting to know how things work and what makes them work and why.

 

 

Ours is a traditionally-male dominated corner of the events industry, have you seen much change in this regard over your career?

A bit, but not a lot. I think the attitude to women on site in technical roles has changed, which is a good thing. I still think it’s a male-dominated corner of the industry. The early part of my career was in theatre, Stage Management specifically, and I found that to be mainly women – but only usually up to a certain level. Then I became a Production Manager, and it became more male-dominated again in the ‘higher up’ levels. I think it’s still rare to see women on the more ‘nuts and bolts’ end of the technical team – i.e staging, rigging, scenic construction etc.

I’ve always felt quite lucky in that I’m usually seen as ‘one of the boys’. Although I do come across some who are more ‘old fashioned’ shall we say. But I think for me the key is to know what you are talking about and be honest, then it feels like one is less likely to be treated differently. Being physically able to shift Steeldeck helps too of course!

If there was one thing you would like to see changed in the events industry generally what would it be? 

It would be good for it to be more planet-friendly, there are a number of organisations making really good headway with this, but it can be quite wasteful sometimes – in terms of materials used and then thrown away.

Are there any practices that could be challenged to encourage more women to join and stay in the industry? Or positive initiatives?

That is a very hard question, the answer is yes, probably… I just don’t know what that might be! It would be nice for women in technical roles to feel more supported at entry level I think. Perhaps then fewer would be put off by ‘blokes being blokes’. I think the younger you are the more easily any bad behaviour is likely to make a significant impact on you.

Have any colleagues or role models been influential in your career?

There are many, the most important one is a lady called Carole Ashcroft, she inspired me to follow my dreams at the tender age of 16 and my step-mum Wendy for not letting me give up on that dream when it was still so young.

Then Annie Wharmby at Central School of Speech and Drama during my degree, she recognised my technical ability and my desire to get involved in the nuts and bolts of event technology.

There are also many that I work with now, Tez Sheals-Barrett from Star Live – I try and think to myself ‘what would Tez do’ before undertaking a tricky situation, it usually works! Her approach and attitude to work is so calm and precise, backed by a great sense of humour and no-nonsense attitude – it’s hard not to be inspired by that.

Cath Bates – freelance production manager and just all round awesome human being, Beckie Parsons – Judgeday Festivals also an all-round awesome human being. Lindsey Markham – NEG Earth – there probably isn’t anyone with more strength of character in the industry.

What’s one bit of advice you would give someone looking to start in a similar role within the industry? 

Crack on!

Tell us about one of your favourite arts or cultural experiences?

It feels like it’s been so long! I can’t remember what it’s like to go to these things any more…Most memorable for me is sitting and watching in awe (and crying) all the way through War Horse, the puppetry just blew me away!

I love going to see gigs in small grass-roots type venues, I think it’s important to support them. I saw Juanita Stein at The Eagle in Salford and it was brilliant, so intimate and magical.