The engineering sector is changing. Female movers and shakers are not only joining engineering companies but leading them. Here at ALLpaQ, for instance, our pioneering business is being pioneered by a group of fantastic women.
They are re-engineering the way we work across all divisions of our business and, in turn, breaking age-old perceptions about women in our industry.
Among the women leading the charge at ALLpaQ are our Financial Supervisor, Paulina Brzezinska, Operations Manager, Melody Hunt, Quality Auditor, Clare Hughes, Operations Assistants Georgina Crosbie and Leanna Enamu, along with Personal Assistant, Cindy Gilbert, and with many others.
Ahead of International Women’s Day, we sat down with them to talk about their experiences as women in the world of business, engineering and tips on how to back yourself and thrive.
Q: What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Our Finance Supervisor, Paulina, refers to the importance of International Women’s Day in Poland, where there is a tradition of gifting female workers carnation flowers as recognition of their hard work and dedication. Also, school boys are encouraged to create small gifts for their female classmates, which helps create appreciation and respect from an early age.
For Paulina, “International Women’s Day is a day that celebrates the strength, resilience and contribution of women, and serves as a reminder of the importance of gender equality.”
For our Operations Manager, Melody, it is a day that reminds her to be proud of her achievements.
Clare, our Quality Auditor, finds it inspiring to hear stories from women in all walks of life. International Women’s Day brings together women from all around the world, sharing and supporting each other in the issues that affect them all. “I also love that it gives my nieces the opportunity to learn about inspiring women”.
Q: How do you find working in manufacturing?
Operations Assistant, Georgia, is aware that more and more women are working in industries, such as manufacturing, that were once considered ‘male jobs’, and she welcomes the freedom, equality and opportunities this offers.
Cindy, the PA to the MD & FD, moved into the largely male sphere of manufacturing from the wedding and events industry, a predominantly female workforce. But she’s pleased to report that she hasn’t found this to be a problem at all. Everyone is treated equally in the ALLpaQ ALLteaM.
Melody points out that ALLpaQ values every employee for their individual strengths and skills and she, therefore, knows that she is valued for what she brings to her role, regardless of her gender.
Operatons Assistant, Leanne, spent many years working in the very ‘blokey’ automotive industry and confesses she sometimes felt intimidated in meetings. She also encountered sexist comments on the shop floor. However, she is pleased to report she hasn’t experienced any of that at ALLpaQ. Quite the reverse, she is supported and encouraged to believe that she can do anything. Because she can!
Of course, working in any group of people, male or female, can bring with it certain challenges. Paulina actually prefers her present working environment and has found that her male colleagues are, generally, straightforward and direct in their communication, which can help to solve problems and resolve conflicts quickly and efficiently. She notes, “while it may not be a popular opinion, I believe that women can learn a lot from working alongside men… which can ultimately benefit us in all areas of our careers”
Q: What advice do you have for other women working in manufacturing?
Clare believes all women working in manufacturing should “just go for it”. A recent National Bureau of Economic Research paper makes explicit the way women are less likely than men to self-promote or push for a salary increase. As she says: “There’s no point being modest, if you want to learn something new or advance in your career, you need to speak up”.
Melody, similarly, hopes women can begin to believe more in their abilities. As she states: “you are just as capable as anyone else. And always be true to yourself”.
Paulina’s advice is the same for everyone: “To bring a professional attitude to the workplace, to recognize that we are all on the same team, and that we can achieve more by supporting each other rather than competing with each other.”
She adds: “Remember that your colleagues, both male and female, can be valuable sources of knowledge and expertise, so take advantage of the opportunity to learn from them.”
Additionally, she agrees with Clare and Melody on the importance of having the confidence to be assertive when necessary. If you have an idea or a perspective no-one else does, your voice deserves to be heard.
Paulina also sounds an important cautionary note about self-care. Working in manufacturing can be physically demanding, so remember that ALLpaQ values all members of the ALLteaM and your health and well-being are just as important as the success of the company.
Leanne’s advice is very simple, and very eloquent: “Don’t forget, no-one is above you, just like no-one is beneath you”.
Q: What advice would you give your younger self?
Cindy’s sagely advice to herself would be: “Don’t be scared to try new things. Everything will work out.”
Melody is similarly philosophical. She would reassure her younger self that: “Anything is possible. Stay positive and take each day as it comes. You will do what is meant to be.”
Leanne added that it is important to: “Believe in yourself and don’t overthink everything.”
Paulina would recommend being brave and taking risks. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes because you’ll learn from them. Also: “If you find yourself in a place that doesn’t suit you anymore, don’t be afraid to leave it behind and try something new.”
Ultimately, they all agree that they would advise their younger selves to to be brave and to trust themselves because: “Life is an adventure, and it’s up to us to make the most of it.”
Q: What makes you feel empowered?
Leanne is empowered by working with the ALLteaM. She explains the importance of being part of a supportive team whilst facing new challenges and having the confidence to overcome them, because “that’s how you grow as a person.”
Paulina acknowledges that feeling empowered comes from both external and internal factors. On one hand, it’s important to have a strong support system of family, friends, and colleagues who believe in you and your abilities. “That gives me a sense of confidence and empowerment.”
But real empowerment isn’t just about relying on others for validation; it also involves taking care of your own physical and mental health. This is why Paulina takes time to prioritise self-care “…whether it’s through exercise, healthy eating habits or practising mindfulness. That all helps me feel strong and capable of tackling challenges that come my way.”
“Knowing that you have both internal and external support systems gives you the confidence to create positive change in your own life and the lives of those around you.”
Cindy finds hard work empowering. She is very data-driven and enjoys processing a lot of complicated information to see real results. “I’m empowered seeing all the effort I’ve put in coming together.”
That, or Malbec. She adds with a smile: “Two glasses of Malbec and I feel like I can dismantle the patriarchy.”
Why International Women’s Day Matters
Historically, women were never part of the workforce, except in specific (typically domestic) roles such as cleaning, cooking, nursing or teaching.
However, even in these fields, it was often expected that women would give up any ambitions they had for a career once they got married. This had a massive impact on their earnings over an entire ‘work life’.
The first significant change happened during the two world wars when women were not conscripted into the army, but they were dragooned into the factories, farms and other workplaces that were now short of male workers.
This demonstrated that women, as the Westinghouse Electric poster famously proclaimed, could do it!
The Gender Pay Gap
Things didn’t immediately change for women in the workforce after the year – it took another generation before significant progress began to be made.
In 1970, The Equal Pay Act was passed into law, designed to equalise pay between men and women engaged in the same work, or work of equal value. That finally became law in 1976.
At roughly the same time, the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act made it unlawful for an employer to treat women less favourably than men.
Problem solved, right? Well, not quite. Almost 50 years later, those battles are still being waged.
In WW2, women were (on average) paid 46% less than men. That gap has narrowed, decade by decade so that, today, it stands at about 8%. So, progress is being made.
Today, women make up nearly half the workforce. In education, girls out-perform boys and have done so for decades. Women spend longer in employment now and motherhood is no longer incompatible with paid work.
At ALLpaQ, every day is Women’s Day
So, the indications are looking good. Which is why it’s important that we spend some time celebrating the contributions women make to the workforce, to the economy and to the success of businesses the world over. But, of course, one day hardly seems sufficient.
That’s why, here at ALLpaQ at least, every day is Women’s Day!
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ALLpaQ is the market leader in the design of innovative pharma containers and fluid management solutions.