It's rare for Sue Wimpenny to experience chauvinism on a building site, but she says the industry's macho image has stuck

 Sue Wimpenny doesn't like builder's tea and has never wolfwhistled at a man in the street, but she is proud to have worked in the construction and property industry for 30 years.

The interior designer turned managing director of her own building firm still likes to shock people when they ask what she does for a living. But their initial surprise normally turns to admiration, especially from men.

"The first reaction is usually a mix of curiosity and disbelief. I really hate it when people pigeonhole you and think just because you are a little woman you should stay at home and make cakes," she says.

Although the 53-year-old still gets the occasional wolfwhistle, she rarely experiences chauvinism from men in the industry - but recognises the traditional macho image can put women off from starting a career in construction.

"I would encourage women into the industry, but they must always have a smile on their face and be prepared to join in the banter, which is usually great fun," she says.

Born and bred in Yorkshire, Wimpenny set up her company, The Lady Builder, at the height of the recession in London in 2009. The public took to her female-dominated business from the start, and - surprisingly - the gender split between her clients has always been around 50/50. But she admits the "female of the house" is usually more forthcoming about their home renovation ideas than men.

As for the usual gripe that builders take far longer to complete a job than they say they will, Wimpenny doesn't think women are more competent at building than men. However, she says their approach can be more beneficial.

"We have exactly the same industry problems that men come across, but perhaps our approach to resolving them is different. I personally think we are more sensitive to the emotions involved in building."

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