Five kickass stories about women in manufacturing

Posted on 8 Mar 2019 by Maddy White

It is International Women’s Day today, and to celebrate here are five (of the many) kickass stories about women in industry.

According to a 2018 report by McKinsey, Delivering through Diversity, firms with a more equal gender balance were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability than those without.

Despite this, the manufacturing industry has a shamefully large gender gap. We believe women in manufacturing need to be celebrated in order to encourage more into industry. From apprentices to the 27-year-old leading a 250-strong team, here are five stories about women pushing industry into the 21st century.

1) Morven Burden: Youngest manager at global biscuit factory

International Women's Day (R) Morven Burden at The Manufacturer MX Awards 2018 - image courtesy of The Manufacturer.
(R) Morven Burden at The Manufacturer MX Awards 2018 – image courtesy of The Manufacturer.

At 27-years-old Morven Burden is the youngest factory manager international confectionery business pladis Global has ever had.

After joining the company as a graduate at its McVitie’s factory in Carlisle in 2012, Burden relocated last year to the pladis site in Romania from the UK to manage the company’s Bucharest-based factory, where she is now leading a 250-strong team.

She said to TM previously, “I don’t feel like I am too young. The business wouldn’t have put me in this role if they didn’t have the confidence in me.”

Read the full interview here:

Burden also won Young Manufacturer of the Year at The Manufacturer MX Awards 2018. Nominations are open now for industry’s most coveted events! 

2) Susan Henry: “I love my job and there are many positives, but we still have room to grow in terms of the acceptance of women in leadership roles”

We previously spoke to director of calibration development at Cummins UK, Susan Henry, about her 16-years working in industry.

Henry was a panelist at a recent ‘Women in STEM’ careers discussion I attended at the House of Lords. Though she was the only panel member with first-hand experience of being a woman working in industry, hearing her speak candidly about her career was insightful and a much needed voice in the room.

The Manufacturer interviewed Henry exclusively after the event to hear her full story, which you can read here: 

3) Maria Collins: The award-winning female engineer urging young people to consider apprenticeships

Maria Collins and Charles Bamford (both IMI Precision Engineering) - image courtesy of IMI Precision Engineering. International Women's Day
Maria Collins and Charles Bamford (both IMI Precision Engineering) – image courtesy of IMI Precision Engineering.

We previously spoke to award-winning trainee engineer Maria Collins, who is encouraging school-leavers to consider more vocational routes.

Collins, who works at the Fradley site of Birmingham-based IMI Precision Engineering,  explained to TM that her teachers were “confused” when she chose to do a three-year apprenticeship in mechanical engineering.

She said on her vocational route, “Whether you like people or not, you have to get along with them, you have to be professional at all times, and that is something that you don’t get at university.”

The practical experience of doing an apprenticeship, meant that the young engineer would learn processes and then put them straight into practice, she said: “You are doing the two in parallel and that is the best way to do it.”

Read the full article:

4) Debbie Heald: Top 100 Exemplar

Heald Ltd designs and manufactures public safety solutions that could reduce the threat of terrorist attacks. For more than 25 years, the business has supplied some of the world’s most high-profile sites with advanced protection against hostile vehicle attacks.

Debbie Heald was named as a Top 100 exemplar in 2018.
Debbie Heald was named as a Top 100 exemplar in 2018.

The Hornsea-based company’s global portfolio includes some of the most prolific buildings in the world; palaces, embassies, border controls, airports, oil refineries, military sites, banks, presidential buildings, shopping malls, government buildings and many more.

The business won the ‘Progressive SME’ category at The Manufacturer MX Awards earlier this month. The celebration formed the finale of Digital Manufacturing Week, this the largest gathering of manufacturing executives in Europe. See the full list of winners here.

Debbie Heald, managing director at Heald Ltd and also highlighted as an exemplar in TM’s Top 100, told The Manufacturer, “I feel Heald represents the very core of British manufacturing. The majority of our products are designed and produced at our site in Hornsea using wherever possible British or European steel.

“Britain is seen as a leader in innovation when it comes to manufacturing. We certainly find being British to be one of our USP’s when selling our products to the rest of the world.”

Read more about Heald here:

The Manufacturer Top 100 project publicly recognises the heroes of UK manufacturing, those who stand out for their contribution to changing the face of industry; finding new markets; making a marked investment in people, processes, technology and customers, or for making an impact disproportionate to their years. Nominate your exceptional employees for TM’s Top 100 today!

5) TM talks to female apprentices at Nissan

The Manufacturer met a group of young female apprentices from the Nissan Skills Academy as they prepared to address an event at the House of Lords organised by the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week this week.

The young women apprentices – who are still outnumbered 9-to-1 by men in manufacturing – told us:

  • Schools are still peddling the falsehood that university is the only route to a decent career
  • They are outstripping their school contemporaries who went to university
  • They are taking degrees while working
  • Getting a well-paid job will be much easier as an apprentice

Learn more here: