A positive role model for women in manufacturing

Image L to R: Laura McBrown, George McBrown and Kate Sharp (all G&B Electronic Designs Ltd).
Image L to R: Laura McBrown, George McBrown and Kate Sharp (all G&B Electronic Designs Ltd).

Jonny Williamson chats with Laura McBrown about her recent appointment as managing director of G&B Electronic Designs Ltd, and the importance of positive female role models in engineering and manufacturing.

G&B's manual assembly workshop.
G&B’s manual assembly workshop.

Hampshire-based G&B Electronic Designs Ltd specialises in supplying clients with tailored electronic manufacturing solutions that aim to drive down production costs and optimise the commercial benefits of outsourcing.

Established more than thirty years ago by George McBrown, the family-run business has recently undergone a change at the top with George stepping down and his daughter Laura taking his place as managing director.

A pretty significant step for someone who only joined G&B on a temporary basis – albeit almost two decades ago – after being made redundant.

Laura explains: “I was initially involved with general administration and sales, and after realising how much I enjoyed being part of the team at G&B, I completed a day-release course on electronic engineering to gain a greater technical understanding.”

After progressing to oversee G&B’s design team for a number of years, Laura moved back into sales and marketing, which included running the technical sales side.

“When my father chose to retire, I decided that I what I really wanted was to step up, take the reins and see where I could take the company,” she continues.

Family Run:

  • G&B Electronic Designs Ltd started by George McBrown in 1980
  • George’s daughter, Laura McBrown is the current managing director
  • George’s second daughter, Kate Sharp is the company secretary, taking over from her mother Catherine McBrown
  • George’s cousin, Gary McBrown is the quality manager
  • George’s niece, Donna Warner works in the accounts department

The new MD describes 2015 as a “really exciting time for the business,” citing the recent arrival of a new lean-enthused operations director, and the purchase of an advanced pick and place machine last year as just two contributors to current growth.

Laura is passionate about engaging with the next generation of engineers and designers, and is involved in a number of activities ranging from offering student work experience places to “Dragon’s Den”-type days at local schools.

“I think it’s important that all businesses take responsibility for raising their profiles,” she says. “It’s crucial that we engage with our surrounding community, who we have a responsibility to source talent from and create jobs for.”

This engagement will only become more necessary, Laura adds, with the company looking to make its first foray into apprenticeships in the near future.

“I think female traits, and they don’t exist solely in women, revolve around helping people. Male traits tend to be more goal oriented or problem solving, and that suits the masculine element of someone’s personality.

“In order to try and get more women interested in engineering and manufacturing, industry has to provide a broader picture of the end benefits to what is being produced.

“A medical device, for example, something very close to our hearts. If you knew creating it would help potentially save thousands of people’s lives, I think women would be more likely to engage with that.”