In celebration of international women’s day, we picked up with Karen Menpes (Assist Locks), A MLA Qualified Master Locksmith who discussed her career in locksmithing so far, how she found coming into the industry as a woman and it as a career choice for women.
We also picked up with the former and first female MLA president Val Stokes (Dennis Security) about her experiences within the industry and how she got into it.
Interview with Karen Menpes –
Female Qualified Master Locksmith
Tell us about your background and coming into locksmithing
I originally started my career as an IT consultant leaving that field in the mid 2000’s, from here my intentions were on becoming a taxi driver.
I have always had a technical side to me and have always been around technical people, my dad was an engineer, and my grandad was also in a similar subject area from an educational perspective so a more hands on and technical career was not something I was shy of!
For a while I hadn’t done anything technical, so I enrolled onto an electrical course, during this course I spoke to someone where the topic of Locksmithing came up, it was something that appealed to me and around 7/8 years ago I began my career as a Locksmith.
The early years saw me undertaken various training and building experience within the industry something I did alongside driving the Taxi!
Have you faced any challenges as a female locksmith?
Actually I have! there are a small (emphasis on small) minority of males who seem to turn their nose up at me, but to be honest this is something I also experienced in the IT field.
I understand you will always get these kinds of people and it’s becoming noticeable for less of these situations to occur.
I feel there has been a slight increase in female locksmiths, but I do feel in the UK we are still behind in comparison to the US or Australia when it comes to female locksmiths.
What do you think of Locksmithing as a career choice for women?
It mainly comes down to the type of person you are, if you are not one for practical or technical work, having to get dirty, cuts and scratches even climbing through windows or over things to get access then this isn’t probably the right career choice, but that would also apply to men.
I personally have found many benefits and rewards in this career.
I have proudly passed the MLA Exam and am one of only a small number of female members.
This really surprises me that there aren’t that many women who have joined!, obviously being self-employed I manage my workload and I’m not forced to take on jobs I don’t want to.
I have also found a lot of people especially vulnerable individuals and single women feel extremely comfortable when I arrive on site or they speak to me over the phone.
I am glad to also know a few female locksmiths around the UK who are fantastic at what they do, everyone is always happy to communicate and help and most of them don’t come from any sort of technical background.
Train To Become a Female Locksmith
The Master Locksmiths Associations First Female President
About MLA First Female President Val Stokes
Val Stokes served as the MLA’s first female President from 2004-2008.
Now an honorary MLA member and treasurer for its London region, she remains involved with the Association to this day, actively participating in regional meetings in the South East and helping to organise the MLA Expo 2021 in October – the UK and Europe’s largest locksmith exhibition.
She got into the locksmithing industry via her father, Dennis, who founded Dennis Security in Walthamstow in 1959, and was a member of the MLA Board.
Val trained in medical research while her husband sold commercial vehicles however, he joined the family businesses following the financial crisis in 1980, and after its rapid growth, Val followed with a role in the office shortly after.
Four decades on, newly retired Val is proud to have passed the third-generation business onto her children and son-in-law who now head up the family firm.
Working out of her father’s former premises, her son, an MLA-approved member, oversees the company’s team of engineers.
Her son-in-law manages the shop while her daughter ensures the business operates efficiently and profitably.
Some people are surprised when I tell them I’ve spent the last 40 years working in the locksmith industry as it isn’t considered to be a typical female occupation however, there’s no reason at all why they can’t do it.
In fact, we have access to more sophisticated tools and equipment nowadays so the physical strength that locksmiths once needed is no longer a barrier.
“I’ve enjoyed very good relationships with other locksmiths over the years who have respected me and valued my opinions. I remember when I still worked,
I felt like I was able to gain the trust of female customers that called in and I truly believe women have a host of skills that suit the nature of the industry
They tend to have a natural empathy for people, are often brilliant communicators and are adept at managing their time, all the traits that make excellent business leaders.
“I definitely feel there’s a place for more women in the industry and I’m proud that my daughter is playing an active role in the family business.”
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