Award winner in ‘perfect job’

Cristy Watkins is going up in the world — one piece of scaffolding at a time.

The 36-year-old Geeves Scaffolding Dunedin employee has just won a 2024 Bunnings Trade Future Leader Award for Women in Trade, from the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and Bunnings.

Known by her colleagues as "Wattie", Miss Watkins left her job as a qualified early childhood teacher more than a decade ago, to find work as a tradeswoman.

"I worked in the early childhood industry for five years, but it wasn’t for me.

"The kids were great, but I’d rather be outside."

She started out as a courier driver before working for an insulation company, but six years ago, she found what she now calls her "perfect job" — as a scaffolder.

"I thought it was great. I get to be outside all day, I get to climb stuff — it was kind of like being a kid again.

"I love the problem-solving side of it. No day is the same.

"This is a career now. I wouldn’t go anywhere else, I don’t think."

Geeves Scaffolding employee Cristy Watkins has been named a winner of the 2024 Bunnings Trade...
Geeves Scaffolding employee Cristy Watkins has been named a winner of the 2024 Bunnings Trade Future Leader Award for Women in Trade. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Being the only woman on work sites did not bother her in the least.

"They don’t cut me any slack because I’m a girl — but I don’t want them to, either.

"There’s been a couple of guys over the years who have given me the side-eye, but they’re just stuck in their older ways.

"I soon proved them wrong.

"I love working with all the boys and being out on the sites."

Having said that, she got "super-excited" when she saw other females on work sites because it did not happen very often.

"It’s a very blokey profession.

"I’m less than 3% of the population that work in the industry, let alone scaffolding."

Geeves Scaffolding Otago general manager Mika Vaitupu was full of praise for Miss Watkins.

"Wattie keeps the boys in line and holds them to account.

"She’s definitely got a voice in terms of what we do on site and how we present ourselves to customers."

Miss Watkins said she was "very surprised" to have won one of the three Women in Trade awards.

"I think I was more excited that there was over 170 applicants because, for me, that means that there are other females out there in the trades ... doing the job and getting it done."

The other winners were Northland electrician Ngakita Beazley-Ruwhiu and Auckland carpenter Courtney Willan.

The award is for their contribution to their trade and how they innovate, inspire and make a positive impact on the industry and those working in it.

It also aims to inspire more women to join the construction industry by giving them resources and professional support to help them thrive.