It’s important to show appreciation to everyone in your team. With equality being a topic that is regularly discussed in today’s workplace it’s easier to see why Women feel isolated especially in STEM industries where there is a low number of women employed in the industry.

Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills caught up with some of the leading women working alongside us, to get an insight into their careers within Manufacturing and Engineering.

First let’s introduce you to Dr Pam Murrell, Chief Executive of the Cast Metals Federation (CMF).

We also had the pleasure to interview Bekki Phillips, who is the Managing Director at In-Comm Training.

Both females are just two of the great inspirations that work alongside ECMS, a great example of women who have worked hard to make a difference within the industry.

What influenced you to work in Manufacturing and Engineering?

Bekki: Engineering is about innovation and ideas and using these to solve problems. I love to see this in action, especially watching young people, who begin their apprenticeships not knowing much about the sector, but go on to flourish when they grasp the concept of what engineering can actually achieve.

Pam: I enjoyed lots of subjects at school including the sciences, but also languages and arts subjects, but the prospect of lots of essay writing at A’ level put me off, so I opted for the sciences and took Maths, Physics and French.  This then led to Materials Science & Metallurgy at University and it was the applied or ‘relevant to the real world’ aspects that I think interested me, as well as the fact that it was not just engineering maths but there was also a ‘narrative’ aspect to the subject.

I should also say that I whilst I am not strictly in a manufacturing or engineering role, having a technical background has certainly been valuable to help me to understand the industry that I work with and feel confident that I can contribute.

How do you think we can close the gender gap within the industry?

Bekki: More promotion of what roles are available within the sector to influence women into engineering and, importantly, more identification and promotion of inspirational women that are currently in these jobs.

We need to show the true modern-day picture of manufacturing…the technology, the automation, the creativity, the global supply chains, the opportunity to earn a lot of money.  As a general rule, I do feel there could be more adoption of a work-life balance to accommodate women who may decide to have time off work to have children.

Pam: Probably by just trying to normalise it – I think most younger people think nothing now of working with a mix of men and women, so I think it will continue to get better over time.  I have generally worked within a male-dominated sector of the industry but not found this particularly difficult – I have just tried to work with integrity, to treat everyone with respect and assumed the same in return.  It helps to try to maintain a sense of humour also.

I would think that some continued attention towards making sure opportunities are open to all, showing positive role models, seeing senior women engineers on TV and during school visits to companies, for example, will all help.  Plus making sure that job adverts don’t always focus on ‘relevant’ experience when perhaps generally aptitude, broader skills and a willingness to learn might be more appropriate – this may encourage early or mid-career changers too, whether male or female, who want to find a role that is more satisfying.

What interests you the most about your role?

Bekki: The opportunity to help bridge the skills gap that has been holding the industry back. At In-Comm Training we have adopted an employer-led approach and that is really helping to drive a bigger take-up in apprenticeships and more companies investing in vocational learning.

It is also exciting to see how far young people and mature learners can go when embarking on an apprenticeship, achieving as much, if not more, than your typical academic routes.

A lot of the people we have trained at the start of their career are now in senior management positions and, in some case, running manufacturers that are exporting all over the world. Witnessing this first-hand is a very nice perk of the job.

Pam: The variety of what I get to do now keeps it interesting – I get to meet lots of different people and visit lots of different types of companies, as well as to work with others from the wider metals sector on a variety of different projects. There is always a new challenge

What advice if any would you give to females wanting to pursue a career within the industry?

Bekki:  Don’t be afraid of being a minority in a male-dominated world. This is slowly changing and there is a real appetite from business to tap into the unique skills and attitudes only women can bring to the table.

Pam: Keep up with your sciences and go for it. Engineering, and the technology used in manufacturing more generally, is always changing and is so relevant to our modern world.  There are so many ways to get involved in great projects with great companies and to make your contribution.

Let’s bridge the gender gap within the industry and celebrate the inspirational women working at high levels within manufacturing and engineering organisations. But let’s also not forget how far the industry has developed gender equality.

Happy International Women’s Day!