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Diane Berry on Women in the KBB Industry


It’s no secret that the kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms industry has long been a predominantly male space, but there are rising female leaders who are paving the way for newcomers and making their mark. So, what does the future hold for the industry and how might things be changing for the better?

We caught up with Diane Berry, Founder of Diane Berry Kitchens, who gave us her perspective on this topic and shared her experience of climbing the ranks and becoming the successful businesswoman she is today. 

Diane Berry Kitchens | Showroom

Please start by telling us a little bit about yourself. 

Diane Berry: In 1980 my father saw in me what he said was ‘great potential’ and I was encouraged to join the family business with the promise of a company car and driving lessons. I really did take to it so quickly and absolutely loved all aspects of design and installation. It’s funny to look back; my father told me I had to wear court shoes, skirt and blouse to do the job, just imagine that happening now.

I learnt very quickly to be considered in this trade I would have to have more knowledge than any man I stood against; at this age I was like a sponge and delighted standing on site and being able to problem solve with any man there. It even got to the point when I was asked first. I moved on from my father's business, interestingly after he employed a man that he wanted me to train but had been offered double my salary (yes – because men earn more!) Of course, being a strong and fiery female, I left.

I changed jobs three times over the coming years to open my own studio in 2002. In those years I worked always for men and dealt with everything that you read about. Luckily times have changed and at long last women are on equal pay, equal rights and hold many positions of power.

The following article was recently published by kbb Review – an interview with Sharan Johal, creative director of Vogue Kitchens. In it she shares some of her personal experiences of working in a male dominated industry, what are your thoughts on her comments, and have you shared any similar experiences yourself?

DB: The most interesting fact about reading Sharan’s Johal article is that I don’t know her name, but I knew her husband’s name. Point made just by this; so many great men have an amazing woman beside them, but all too often they are in the shadow as people tend to talk about the man like he is in control.

I am super lucky as I have an amazing husband who supports me in all I do and many times at events people assume it is his business not mine. I do think women are becoming more and more visible in our trade and I hope that people like Sharan and myself being willing to speak out will help others stand strong and say: ‘hey I have something to say so please treat me as an equal.’

Diane Berry Showroom

How do you perceive the gender imbalance in the KBB industry? Is it a growing problem or is it something that’s getting better?

DB: I believe that the imbalance is much better but still has a way to go, but I equally think there is an imbalance of cultures too as it does seem to finally become less about middle aged white men and a better cross section of society is joining the trade.

Why do you think there are fewer women in senior roles in the KBB industry?

DB: I have always felt that on the retail side of the kbb industry has mostly been about mums not wanting to work weekends and sadly this trade does mean you are selling on a Saturday. This is why I think it lends better to men although lots of parents both male and female try and find time for their family which is fantastic.

From your perspective, what effect does the gender imbalance have on the industry as a whole?

DB: I think a design team needs a mix of men and women as we are truly different, and the broader point of view brings better design. I love brainstorming with all my team as this helps get a balance that cannot come from a like-minded group, you need diversity to get good design and practical solutions.

What do you think can be done to shift the imbalance? How can we start providing more/better opportunities for women?

DB: I think the balance is almost here but what is needed is a few more years so there is a natural rising to the top, this cannot be forced as oh too often you see someone go too quickly and it feels like they are there for the gender or their ethnicity and not their ability. The great will rise to the top and we will get more and more women reaching the higher levels of business. It has changed beyond recognition in my time.

Do you think that ‘traditionalism’ is something that remains rampant in this particular sector? And if so, how are these ideals contributing to the issue?

DB: I don’t think this at all, I genuinely feel that our trade is getting a good balance and most male dominated kitchen businesses are seeing that they lack the balance and are searching out women to join their teams. 

Diane Berry Kitchens | Showroom

During your career, did you ever experience prejudice, push-back or negativity from others? If so, how did you deal with it?

DB: To answer this question alone, I could write a book and mostly it would be done with humour as it feels like a time gone by. A few examples… in an interview I was asked ‘Are you on the pill?’ and ‘Do you use contraception?’ whilst this bloke chain-smoked, dripping in chunky gold chains. My answer was: ‘I am not on the pill and no I don’t use contraception, but you employ me I will be the best sales designer you have ever employed’ and many years later, when I left, he agreed that I had been the best he had ever employed. I’ve got loads of stories like this, but it was a lifetime ago and not relevant to current times. Now I am in control of my own business, I employ four women and seven men.

What advice would you give to a woman just entering into the KBB industry – how can she climb the ladder of success?

DB: I would always say: study study study. There is nothing more impressive than someone – male or female – with knowledge. Find a way to set aside time to learn and do your job as a woman never try to be like a man! The reason we are great is because we bring a different approach and mindset.

Are there any particular personal traits you’d say have helped you get to where you are today?

DB: I care and that’s what I feel makes me different to many others in my trade, I care about how my clients feel and if they get the best from all my team. I care they get the very best outcome from their home for their family, so caring is my strong point as people know by meeting me that I care about them.

Why is it important to have a mixed work force? Do you think diversity in the workplace can lead to better output/productivity/creativity?

DB: Super important to get a diverse group and this brings balance but also comfort to clients as not everyone suits communicating with a man or a women so having a choice helps too.

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