You run your company Evan’s Excavation – could you tell me a little bit about that and how you got it started?
“I’ve been a digger driver since I was a kid. My dad taught me when I was about six years old. So, when I was old enough – you had to be 21 back then – in 2001, I got my digger license. This made me the first female in the North West and the youngest person in the country to get the license. I used to work for big contractors, on hospitals and bus stations and various building projects and what not.
I’ve always really loved my job, but have come up against people not wanting me – doing the job, or on site. That just made me more determined that I was going to do a good job. I always had a bit of a dream of wanting to do my own thing.
I went to Australia for a year in 2010, and was working on big 60 tonne machines – which was really good fun. I came back with my now husband, Gary – but when we came back, we found out that he was loosing his eyesight due to diabetes. We had a couple of years where we weren’t able to work hours at the same time and we were having a baby, so things were a bit tricky. We both came out of employment for a couple of years and I became poorly with postnatal depression. Gary needed caring for as well. We had a couple of years struggling financially and having to rely on benefits – just not a happy time.
Our little girl hit three years old and we wanted to get back to supporting ourselves and our family. We decided we could set ourselves up. We saved £150, bought five gallons of diesel, hired a mini digger for a week and the local builder had asked me if I would do some foot ins. That was it really – after that, the phone never stopped ringing.
It grew with our own machinery and now life has changed massively, it really has. My husband is very supportive of the company, but it’s my baby. The company’s run by a female, the decisions are made by a female and the dirt’s dug by a female – everything’s done by me.”
What keeps you motivated on your more difficult days?
“I’d say wanting to improve our life. I don’t want to go back to those days of feeling like a good mum. The other thing that keeps me going is kind of proving that this job is for a woman – there’s no reason why you can’t do it.
That’s really important to me – encouraging other women to do this. I’ve been on building sites since I was 21, where there’s 100 men and I’m the only girl. It’s really scary actually – you do feel intimidated, with everyone staring at you and being the odd one out. I don’t want any women coming into the job now to have to feel like that. It should be normal. It doesn’t have to be a big deal because you’re a woman doing it.
When people ring me for work, I still occasionally get them going ‘Can I speak to your husband’
So yeah – I do want to change the world”
What’s been your favourite project you’ve worked on?
“It’s probably the project that I’m doing now. It’s for an organisation called Idle Women. They do workshops offering different skills like craft, different DIY, helping other women that have been in refuges or are struggling with mental health – that kind of thing.
They change spaces. They might take an overgrown allotment that’s been disused for a long time and make it into a nice planting area. The one that I’m doing now is a canal side plot, because they have a barge as well. The land that we’re on at the minute was a piece of ugly, disused land, so I’m just digging it up – I’ve just dug a little amphitheater style seat into the ground, making a nice pathway and it’s going to have a medicinal garden. It’s a really lovely project to be involved in.
The great thing about my job is looking at before and after – when you’ve got a disused piece of land, seeing the change is amazing. Obviously I don’t do the finishing bit and make it look really pretty, but the change of the land can be so dramatic with what you can do with the machine. Sometimes people will look at land and think that you can’t do anything with it, but if you’ve got the knowledge, you realise that you can.”
Do you personally have any women who have inspired you to get to where you are?
“My inspiration would be my little girl and wanting to change things for her: on a personal level (our life situation) as well as if she wants to go into a trade, by the time she’s old enough, it will be normal.
I don’t want it to be a big deal – she’s not going to have to be cringing when she walks on site because someone’s saying something or staring.
There won’t be any of that kind of rubbish – for her, it will be normal.
For her, it is normal! Her mum’s a digger driver.”
Is there anything you’d like to say to other women just entering the industry?
“I would say don’t give up. Don’t be scared to ask questions. When you do come across the idea that people don’t want you there because you’re a woman, use that negative as a positive. It’s a waste of time arguing with people who have that point of view. You’re not going to change their opinions.
The anger that I had from being discriminated against gave me that fire in my belly to go ‘I’ll show you what I can do!’. Keep at it. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do.
For me, I’ve been in this industry 20 years. Now, it’s very nice to see women starting to get into construction – when I was first on site, there wasn’t any of that. It’s lovely to see women of all ages start coming onto site – I feel less lonely.”
Desert Island round – a track, a book and a luxury. What would you take?
Track: I’m Feeling Good – Nina Simone
Book: What I Know For Sure – Oprah Winfrey
Luxury: Notepad and Pen
This was Pamela Evans of Evans Excavation LTD, interviewed for our #WiCW series – a compilation of articles from inspirational women in the Construction and Trades industries. If you’re a woman starting to get into the counstruction industry and want some guidance, Pamela is happy to help! Contact her on her Twitter or Instagram.