Formerly a police officer, Kat Lorenc is from Leicester and is based at Ainscough Crane Hire’s Coventry depot. This is her inspirational Ainscough story.
After my first year of studying forensic science at university I began thinking of my degree as something was holding me back. I quit, did my training for the police and spent three and a half years with a force in the South East. As you’ll see, I’m not afraid of making big decisions in order to be true to myself.
While I enjoyed the work, was stressful and I didn’t feel I got the support I needed. It wasn’t easy but for my wellbeing I left and moved into cranes.
My first job was with Quintos but I began working for Ainscough in 2015. I’ve gone to work for other companies but have ultimately returned to Ainscough – most recently, in August of 2021. I’d been driving trucks and was really happy to get back to cranes at the Coventry depot.
However, my mental health was suffering.
Our industry is not particularly diverse and some people hold antiquated attitudes – though some great work has been done in recent years. Therefore, I wasn’t confident that the industry would accept me as a trans woman.
In 2019, at perhaps my lowest, I had a light-bulb moment and realised something just didn’t feel right. I was in turmoil – something had to change.
I reached out to the Leicester LGBT Centre, a voluntary organisation set up to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people. I realised I wasn’t alone – finding this supportive, welcoming community was wonderful.
Around this time, I went back to work for Ainscough after a stint away. By now, I’d started my transition and begun laser hair removal. I also took lessons from professionals on makeup, and guidance on how to change the way I walked and talked.
These were big steps of my journey but at work, I was still hiding who I really was. This was no way to live, and in August 2021 both my physical and mental health were in a bad place. I left the company again – in retrospect, this is something I regret.
It was fear of rejection. I don’t care what people think about me but I didn’t want abuse. I wasn’t confident in the support that I’d get and felt I wasn’t ready, and the industry wasn’t ready for me either.
So, I spent some time away working on trucks again.
Before Christmas last year I was contacted by the Centre and asked if I wanted to be involved in something to do with construction. My contact there had been called by Laing O’Rourke as they had asked ask if they could make a festive donation.
Knowing my background, the Centre asked if I would be happy to come in when the donation was made, and talk about what it would mean – they knew I could stand in front of a room and waffle! I did, and the positive nature of the whole experience made me think that I’d misjudged the construction industry.
I spoke to my former Ainscough manager and Area Operations Manager Peter Anthony and explained I wanted to return – but as Kat. His reaction – “OK. What do we call you now?” – was caring and welcoming: exactly what I needed. He’s been my manager for most of my time at Ainscough and having him on board made me feel safe.
I had to come in for an interview as I was effectively a new starter. This was the same time that I met Matthew Marshall, who was Coventry’s depot manager at the time. Matt has been so accommodating and has helped to push me towards achieving my goals in the industry.
I then started talking to other people in the industry about my journey – everyone was just so kind.
People did say things like “You’ll have to bear with us” which I totally understand. I gave people time to adjust, just as I’ve been adjusting too.
When I returned, I was very keen to get back on the job at Balfour Beatty Vinci’s work at Long Itchingham on HS2. However, I was having accreditation isues due to my name change. Previously I’d worked with Allan Eardley, appointed person and lifting manager at BBV, and he helped get my ID updated so I could again work on that incredible project.
I was touched by Allan stepping in but he didn’t help out of sympathy. He’s an old school crane guy, and he knew that I’m good at my job and would add value to his team’s work on HS2 – regardless of my gender.
That’s not to say there aren’t issues for me to overcome, but these are problems that women in construction have had to contend with for some time. For example, there’s often poor provision of female toilets on site and sometimes they’re used as store rooms. That’s got to change.
Looking ahead, I want to gain as much as experience as possible in different types of lifts. I also want to work my way up to heavy cranes and mobile tower cranes and go down the route of contract lift management.
In tandem with my own professional development, I’m very interested in getting more people from all backgrounds into construction. Our industry has an age problem, and we need to do more to make working on cranes attractive to new generations.
However, one thing we do know is that younger generations today embrace diversity, and will not want to work in industries where people are judged by any other reason other than how good they are at their job.
My experience shows that while there is still progress to be made, the amount of people going to hate you will be outweighed by the people that are standing behind you.
For the first time I can remember, I am happy in myself and in my job – it’s hard to ask for more than that.