International Women’s Day | We asked some inspiring women in manufacturing about why we should be celebrating
In honour of International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, we asked some inspiring women in our network why it is important to celebrate women in manufacturing, their experience of being in the industry and advice for others.
Kirsty Davies-Chinnock BA, MA, Managing Director, Professional Polishing Services
“It has been a privilege to see more women enter and thrive within manufacturing over the last thirty years and I hope this continues. Manufacturing is an excellent career choice for women who enjoy using their problem-solving skills to give a measured and visible end result. It is quite often an exciting and challenging career path with some stigma still to overcome, although this has reduced over the last decade. I believe we should celebrate those women who came before us, who gave us this path to tread, and celebrate our own journey. Through this, women who come after us can see that we are proud of our achievements and it will give them pride in the knowledge that they’re forging their own paths. To those young women starting in engineering or manufacturing, we are here to give you a helping hand if needed and we are hugely excited to watch you succeed.”
Alice Swallow, Senior Innovation Engineer, Ford Motor Company
“Personally, I feel it is incredibly important to celebrate women in our industry to inspire and encourage the next generation of women into engineering and manufacturing. We have a responsibility as role models to share all the benefits, positives and exciting opportunities that are available to be exploited by our future leaders.
I truly value the experience that I have been fortunate enough to have in my career at Ford Motor Company. It has allowed me to have a fully sponsored university education from a Foundation Degree to a full MSc and invaluable work experience collaborating with partners across industry and academia. As well as sponsorship opportunities there is also the benefit of seeing your work applied in real-life and making a difference; whether it is seeing a part you designed on a vehicle or developing a feature to improve customer satisfaction.”
Margot James, Executive Chair, WMG
“International Women’s day is a great opportunity to remind ourselves of the contribution of women to our scientific and industrial progress. I’m constantly inspired by how Warwick’s women researchers and business partners are making our world a better place.
At WMG, Professor Claire Davis is using her knowledge of steels and materials to make the steel supply chain cleaner, greener and smarter. Dr Mel Loveridge is supporting the shift to zero carbon transport by extending battery life, while Dr Claire Dancer is developing novel composite materials to help develop solid-state batteries for medical devices.
I could name so many more of our scientists and technicians who are working to change our world – making our industry more sustainable, our nation healthier, and our world greener.
To help you to do the same, it’s vital to have mentors, leaders and innovators you can learn from, and support networks you can turn to when you face challenges.
At WMG, for example, we’ve put in place mentoring programmes, promotion briefings and Women in Leadership programmes to offer support for career growth.
From healthcare to sustainable transport, developing vaccines to advanced materials, clean power to global communication – manufacturing is the key to the future. That’s why we need women to play an equal part in how we make a better world."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Le4XRezK1GU&t=4s Margot James, WMG Executive Chair, celebrates International Women’s Day
Nat Macaulay, Managing Director at JCM Fine Joinery
“I have to be honest, I had never heard of International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is about choosing to challenge, challenging gender bias and celebrating women’s achievements.
I am a woman and I am ‘in’ manufacturing and whilst I accept that my sector has struggled to have appropriate levels of representation by women, this hasn’t always been the case. We only have to rewind a couple of generations to see the contribution that women made in manufacturing businesses that were supporting the Second World War effort. Women were drafted in to run all kinds of manufacturing businesses out of necessity.
That necessity is upon us again and thanks to younger generations of women and men, who don’t see gender in a restrictive way, women are once again over-contributing to manufacturing and that is definitely to be celebrated. Why? Because it simply makes good business sense.
You’ll find all kinds of supporting evidence from academics and professional consulting firms to show the increase to profit and a host of other business metrics. Google ‘women in manufacturing’ and you may also be surprised at all the kinds of manufacturing businesses run by women around the world.
So, this March 8th, I’ll happily do my bit to raise awareness and celebrate women’s contribution in manufacturing. In doing so, I hope I help to ‘normalise’ the presence of women in manufacturing. And who knows, maybe one year, we won’t need a ‘day’ to celebrate it because it will be the norm every day.”
Karen Drinkwater, Director, JSC Rotational
“I am not a trained engineer but I own my own manufacturing business, JSC Rotational Ltd, and last year I was elected as Vice President of the British Plastic Federation (BPF). This was the first time in BPF’s history that a woman has held this position.
As with other areas of the manufacturing community, I don’t doubt that women are making a highly significant contribution across all levels of the plastics sector - I see it every day. But I do feel that there are too few high profile women. This might be because women in our industry don’t view themselves as any different from their male counterparts and therefore don’t see the need to push themselves into the limelight. However, I think it is important that we do so, not for the sake of the women in our industry, but for the continued success of manufacturing and engineering in general.
For our sector to continue to thrive and compete with the rest of the world in a post-Brexit economy, we need to attract the best people available, both male and female. Girls need to know that manufacturing and engineering offer good future opportunities and respect, and the ideal way of doing this is to show them the people who have already taken this path.
Successful women can already be recognised in fields such as law, medicine and journalism, that compete for the best of our young people and it is time for female engineers to stand by their side.”
Helena Flowers, Managing Director and Owner, Andel Plastics
“Here we are again, celebrating International Women’s day and women’s achievements in the manufacturing industry. I was very lucky growing up, my home life was unlike my school life, there were no distinctions between my brothers and us girls with what we were expected to do, and certainly what we thought we were capable of doing. I entered the family manufacturing business 24 years ago, yet I still find people looking over my shoulder for my technical team.
I always find it sadly interesting that when I attend Women in Business events, I am usually the only one in manufacturing, yet when I am at a manufacturing event, I am often the only female. Thankfully, that has improved over the last five years and with more focus on promoting STEM and removing those boundaries, I do see this improving. My advice to any female, who has an interest in engineering, is to not be limited by any preconceptions of what it entails.
Find yourself a mentor; listen, take on board, then walk your own path. My mentor happens to work for WMG and he has helped challenge me, made me think of all angles, then ultimately let me make my own decision that I believe in and can therefore follow through. You can only do the best you can with the information you have, so get all the information you can.”
Nicola Kirkley, Innovation Manager, WMG
“My Dad played a role in my success as an engineer, in the sense that he always encouraged me to do it and aim for Director regardless of gender. I appreciated that he believed I could do it, so I did. In many cases, women are not encouraged to take big roles, or even go into engineering.
I was fortunate to become the Managing Director of an electrical SME by 31 years old, which I ran for 10 years. It was something I had worked hard for and I loved it! I consider my biggest achievement along the way to be the talent I have nurtured and the careers I have kicked off, and I will keep trying to do that.
I think it is important for women in these roles to get a voice. It is easier to believe you can do something if you can see similar people to you have done it already. We still have a long way to go before we achieve equality, but we must also celebrate how far we have come already. It’s refreshing to celebrate the strong women in manufacturing together.”
Read more about International Women's Day here: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/