Shining a light on women in manufacturing

Posted on 8 Mar 2022 by Lanna Deamer

We first had the idea for The Manufacturer Top100 in 2013. There was a growing recognition in academic studies and parliamentary reports that there was a lack of visible role models in the industry. The Manufacturer Top100 was our response. We wanted to provide a showcase for the most inspiring individuals in industry, to illustrate the enthusiasm and commitment present in modern manufacturing and to underscore the exciting, well-paid and rewarding careers that exist in the sector.

These 100 individuals have been nominated by customers, team members, by the leaders and the led, from shop floor to top floor. They are among the very best UK manufacturing has to offer. And given the brilliance of modern manufacturing in this country, that is really saying something. Out of the 100 judged to have made the cut, 20 have been highlighted as Exemplars; people who make a truly exceptional contribution to the sector every day. We are proud of our 50/50 gender split between the Exemplars, and in this piece, we shine a light on the amazing work of women in the sector. Here are our 10 fantastic female Exemplars from 2021.

The exemplars

Tanya Ashton, Head of Sustainability – Europe, Walgreens Boots AllianceTanya Ashton

Ashton spent the majority of her working life manufacturing ever more sustainable food with Associated British Foods. Recently she moved into the Health and Wellbeing sector with Walgreens Boots Alliance.

During this time, Ashton has saved more than 120,000 trees being felled from unsustainable sources, shifted 7,500 tonnes of paper to FSC certified, increased responsible sourcing of high-risk food commodities to 95%, reduced factory carbon emissions by 30%, and reduced food miles for just one customer by 230,000 – enough to fly them to the moon!

Ashton expressed how she couldn’t have achieved a single one of these things without the support of colleagues who were willing to try something different.

Kate Black, Chief Technology Officer, Meta Additive

Kate BlackBlack is a multidisciplinary researcher, lecturer, and businesswoman focused on elevating the additive manufacturing industry through chemistry and collaboration. She is a senior lecturer in the School of Engineering at the University of Liverpool and co-founded Meta Additive in 2019.

Meta Additive has developed a 3D printing metal and ceramic process which will revolutionise the industry’s capabilities and bring additive manufacturing to the masses. Black is a firm believer that if we are to provide smart manufacturing solutions to tackle the world’s challenges, we need to collaborate with a broad range of disciplines from science right through to the humanities. This mix of expertise will enable innovation to thrive and keep UK manufacturing at the forefront.

Natalie Brown, Procurement Operations Manager, Rolls-Royce

Natalie BrownBrown discovered a career in manufacturing by accident. After undertaking a degree in Architecture, she was recruited into Rolls-Royce to the factory design and layout team. From there, Black said she loved the company and the world of manufacturing so much, she decided to focus her efforts in manufacturing engineering and has never looked back.

Anita Davenport-Brooks, People, Culture and Compliance Manager, Lander Group

Anita Davenport-Brooks2

Davenport-Brooks explained how happy she is to have the opportunity within Lander to be involved in developing and building the future strategy for the business. She has a passion for people development and is proud of the company’s apprenticeship and people development programmes which have received lots of external recognition and awards.

Supporting people to achieve more than they expected they could, no matter what their background or ability, really inspires her. Davenport-Brooks is also the Regional Chair for the West Midlands Apprenticeship Ambassador Network and has met passionate and dedicated people supporting apprenticeships in lots of different organisations. She was excited and honoured to be the winner of the Skills Champion award this year from Enginuity.

Katy Davies, Managing Director, CamdenBoss

Katy DaviesDavies is incredibly passionate about manufacturing across its vast range of industries from food production to engineering. She is constantly enthralled by how her teams capture customer requirements, create an engineered solution and build it from a seemingly benign array of components and materials into something beautiful and functional that you may see or use every day!

Davies explained that she is so proud to be part of the manufacturing sector and her aspiration is to use her love of enabling great people and what she’s learnt from her career in finance, food & agriculture, aerospace and lean manufacturing to lead a great manufacturing business that similarly inspires others about what can be achieved behind those roller shutter doors.

Jo Hartnell, Tunnel Quality Engineer, Balfour Beatty

Jo HartnellAs a proud and passionate Tunnel Engineer Hartnell’s greatest pride is carving a path into the construction industry. As a student, she identified that underground infrastructure solutions were vital to accommodating increasing urban population growth alongside climate adaption. Hartnell was committed to pursuing this vocation.

Today, she is a celebrated young Tunnel Engineer who constantly strives to exceed expectations and demonstrate that early career professionals can enact positive change. As a proactive young professional, Hartnell relishes the opportunity to step outside her comfort zone and strive to be an ambassador for the construction industry by dispelling misconceptions and highlighting the benefits of greater workplace diversity.

Soraya Karimi-Ghovanlou, Supply Chain Director, Smithfield Foods

Soraya Karimi-GhovanlouKarimi-Ghovanlou takes great satisfaction from not only finding solutions to problems but also bringing new ideas to the table, testing new things out within the industry to improve service and costs. She gets inspired by seeing the team around her achieve the successes they set out for themselves and also her family inspire me to be the best I can be. Karimi-Ghovanlou’s biggest achievement in life was going from factory floor to Director in under four years.

Nipuni Karunaratne, Managing Director, IVY TECH

Nipuni KarunaratneKarunaratne is the Managing Director of IVY TECH, Digital Technology Manager – Model Factory and the Vice Chair for the Rolls Royce Gender Diversity Network in the UK. She is a Charted Engineer and received her MEng in Aerospace Engineering from Brunel University London in 2015. Karunaratne is passionate about digitalisation and advanced manufacturing technologies.

Whilst she works as the Digital Technology Manager – Model Factory at RollsRoyce Karunaratne started her own company IVY TECH to develop cutting-edge new manufacturing technologies. She has collaborated in number of government funded R&D projects delivering cutting-edge manufacturing solutions. She has always been actively involved in STEM activities and helping the young generation by mentoring, coaching and inspiring and has been a motivational and a STEM panel speaker in many leading events worldwide.

In 2019, Karunaratne was elected as the UK chair for the Gender Diversity Network at Rolls Royce and currently she is working as the Vice Chair supporting the company in positively changing the working environment to be more diverse and inclusive. Her ambition has always been to spread awareness and encourage STEM industries to move away from stereotypes and to value talent. Karunaratne always thrives to be a role model for career driven women, demonstrating her own experience of being a young female engineer.

Julia Miles, Integrated Productions Systems Coach, Jaguar Land Rover

Julia MilesMiles started her career in nursing going on to manage a ward and then went onto social work, in total spending nearly 30 years in the profession. However, she wanted to explore a different career path and with the JLR Engine manufacturing Centre (EMC) opening locally, Miles decided to explore the opportunities there.

She started on the track in the Diesel Hall of the EMC as an assembly associate and after a couple of months gaining knowledge about the business and how the different departments worked, Miles started to think about how she wanted to develop her career. She looked at her existing skills gained from her previous career and which of these would be transferable into roles at the EMC. Miles spoke to several people in the Integrated Production Systems (IPS) team, and they explained about the lean systems and tools and how they are used in the EMC to drive performance. They advised her of the coach role within the team and she felt she had years of relevant people skills in multidisciplinary working, mentoring, training, and coaching that would enable her to be a driving force within the team, she just needed training in lean systems and tools.

Within the IPS team, Miles is responsible for rolling out lean manufacturing systems and tools, ensuring the systems and tools are being utilised and that adherence is good, as well as collecting and analysing data. She is also responsible for coaching and training all team leaders, process leaders and managers within six-cylinder diesel and petrol engine manufacturing. Miles has also recently completed a level 3 equivalent in manufacturing with the aim of being able to then coach associates through the qualification to assist their development.

Louise Reeves, Head of Heath, Safety & Environment, Accolade Wines

Louise ReevesReeves has been in Health & Safety in manufacturing for 15 years challenging the status quo. She loves her job and is passionate about creating a positive working culture. Reeves loves the interaction with people at all levels from all walks of life and having the opportunity to positively influence and guide others to strive for improvement, making change happen and making a difference. She gets a buzz from seeing others do well and enjoys supporting them on their own personal journeys.

Reeves thrives on being busy and challenged, delivering results creatively and sometimes in unconventional ways! That twinned with the fast pace and challenges of manufacturing and all its intricate facets makes it an exciting whirlwind of a place to be.

Download The Manufacturer Top100 2021 Compendium here.