By Hannah Phillips
A female plasterer was trolled online, had dog poo posted through her letterbox and even had her daughter’s face photoshopped onto porn pics – after she was voted the nation’s best over her jealous male rivals.
‘Pink plasterer’ Steph Leese, 43, from Liverpool, won an award for best plasterer in the UK in 2017 but claims within 20 minutes of the announcement she was bombarded with a flurry of vile abuse from blokes in the trade.
The married mum-of-one has been a plasterer for 20 years after she was introduced to the trade by an ex-boyfriend and set up her own business ten years ago after discovering she had a knack for the job.
But despite the gender-based trolling – which has left her forced to leave social media and even change her phone number three times – Steph insisted she’ll never leave her place in the male-dominated industry.
Steph said: “I love my job because I trained so hard to get to the professional level I’m at, I love manual work and I’ve got a great reputation.
“I was absolutely overwhelmed when I won the award, it wasn’t just for me, it’s an achievement for other female tradies to be recognised professionally.
“Before then, trolling was quite rare and I’d just had a few throwaway comments but within minutes of the announcement it started – it was extremely vitriolic and focused on me being a female.
“It was absolutely shocking. It’s typical tradesmen – they completely embody the stereotype other people in the trade are trying to move away from.
“Imagine if it was their wife or daughter they were talking about? It’s just disgusting.
“I don’t profess to be better than anyone, I just do my job. We’ve got a good reputation and I give four people employment.”
Steph has been running her own business, Pink Plasterer, for 10 years since she was made redundant from her job as a HR advocate at a law firm, and employs a team of two men and two women.
She said the trolling began after details of her award were shared on a private Facebook page, Spread the Banter Plasterers UK, which soon escalated into graphic and abusive sexist comments.
The posts from sexist trolls included insults about Steph’s appearance, and she was called an ‘ugly b****’ and told she belonged in the kitchen.
The 43-year-old was then horrified to discover even in image of then-10-year-old daughter, Megan, had been added to a pornographic photograph and circulated on social media.
She said her daughter was left “devastated” after finding out about the image when Steph was stopped in the street by someone who had seen it.
Steph contacted police but was told there was nothing that could be done because the photos had been sent anonymously.
She said: “Dog poo was posted through my door with a note saying ‘this is what we think of your work’.
“I was sickened, it was something only an unbalanced person would do.
“They definitely need some form of help if a stranger’s ability to win an award upsets them so much.”
Since then, Steph has continued to receive a flurry of vile abuse from males in the trade and is still been forced to stay away from social media and change her number to escape the abuse, which she says has also caused her to lose work.
Steph said: “I’ve taken myself off forums.
“I get digs all the time, people saying I shouldn’t be doing what I’m doing and I should leave it to the boys.
“I think they should luck how well the women footballers have done in the world cup, while meanwhile men are putting photos online with irons in their hand.
“How boring are they, their heads are stuck in 1970.”