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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 August 2005, 08:21 GMT 09:21 UK
Women's work: Explosives engineer
All this week, the BBC World Service's World Today programme is talking to women in jobs traditionally associated with men.

On Thursday, the programme hears from a British woman, Holly Bennett, one of Europe's only female explosives engineers.

I've worked in controlled demolition since I left school. I started as an office junior, then went to see a "blow down" in Sheffield and absolutely fell in love with it.

I said I wanted to be an explosives engineer. Everybody laughed at me, but because I'm quite a stubborn person, I decided to do it anyway.

Holly Bennett
As far as explosives engineering is concerned, I can do everything that men can do
Holly Bennett
It's quite difficult to describe my job as it involves so many different things - from going and looking at jobs and pricing them, to doing method statements for the explosives and demolition, to the planning and co-ordination and all the evacuations.

There's a million and one things involved.

With men, you do get the odd funny look on site, but I think to be honest when I started they thought it was a novelty, because I was the only girl on demolition sites.

I don't think many of them thought I would have lasted the distance. They were all pleasant enough - to my face at least - but from time to time it does get a bit hard, and it would be nice to have a bit of female company.

But unfortunately, no-one else has joined me yet.

Business suit

As far as explosives engineering is concerned, I can do everything that men can do - there's nothing in my job that I can't do because I'm female.

However, the men that do the drilling and the pre-weakening, I couldn't do what they do, because it's very physical, a very, very difficult job. But engineers don't do that.

Obviously there is always going to be your typical male chauvinist - you get one everywhere you go - but it's less and less as the years go on and the more people know me.

Controlled Demolition Group blow up Sutherland and Embley points in Hackney
Ms Bennett works for the Controlled Demolition Group
I know most people in the industry. Although the construction industry is a massive industry, it's like one big family - everybody knows everybody else's business.

So I think they've more or less accepted me now.

It's sometimes a little bit more difficult in places like the Middle East, where their cultures are complete different. We just have to respect that.

If there is going to be somewhere where I'm going to upset someone, I just won't go, to be honest - it's not specifically that because I'm a woman I can't do the job, and I fully accept that. Obviously, if they have a different culture then we'll respect their wishes.

I don't think I'm a particularly "butch" girl - in fact, out of work at least, I'm probably one of the most girly girls you could meet.

People think it's a butch job and so on, but the only physical work that we do is literally putting the explosives in - which is 5% of the work.

A lot of the time I'm wearing a business suit, going to meetings.



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