GIRL POWER – HELPING TO SHIFT THE BALANCE IN ENGINEERING ROLES

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Recently published data in March 2022 summarises how the gender composition of the UK’s engineering workforce has changed over the last 11 years and confirms unsurprisingly, that engineering remains a very much male-dominated field. However, the trends are gradually shifting, confirming that while the percentage of women in engineering has increased, the increases are concentrated in certain roles. In 2010 just over 1 in 10 (10.5%) of those working in engineering roles were women. Fast forward to 2021 and the percentage had risen to 16.5% (Source, ONS) with the rates of change (in terms of gender balance) focussed on the associate and technical professional levels, rather than managerial or director level.

 

A good example of how women are becoming increasingly involved in engineering is at precision bearing specialists CARTER MANUFACTURING, where in her position as Sales Director, Francesca Brundell-Romero is proving to be an outstanding success. In a revealing interview with Francesca we learn about her journey, growing up amidst the world of bearings and her ascent through the ranks of this complex and fast-expanding industry sector. From very early exposures to bearing events and factory visits to pivotal roles in Carter’s US offices and now at Carter’s UK HQ in Oxfordshire, Francesca shares her insights and experiences. This is through the recent global challenges along with the evolving landscape of gender representation in a traditionally male-dominated industry sector.

 

What was it like growing up with family in the Bearing Industry?

“From a young age I was experiencing bearing industry events and exhibitions, meeting many businesses who we still work with today. This allowed me to improve my customer engagement skills and I think people like to ‘buy’ from a familiar face”.

Attending Conferences helped sow-the-seeds

“In the early years I was too young to ‘officially’ attend conferences and events, but I did interact and meet people briefly. As I got older I started attending conferences and enjoying and exploiting the benefits of socialising with customers. For example, Bearing.Net is a good annual event to meet familiar faces in the industry and catch-up on the latest worldwide industry and environmental trends”.

Visiting Bearing Factories

Visiting suppliers on an annual basis is critical to maintaining a fluid and consistent relationship with all our customers. This has enabled us to build long-lasting relationships helping to ensure that suppliers are more available and understanding when more complex inquiries occur. This also provides us with the opportunity to see first-hand the factory environments of our suppliers and to ensure manufacturing processes are of the highest quality”.

University placement at Carter Inc. Valuable Experience in External and Internal Sales, Bearing Assembly and Manufacturing

Following on from studying International Business at Nottingham Trent University I worked at Carter Inc. in Michigan where I got the opportunity to assemble bearings and start by working in the workshop and seeing the ‘back-end’ of factory work from assembly to packaging and delivery. Basically, women doing the assembly work and the men operating the machinery. I then moved on to do more business development work where I was given projects on cold-calling potential customers for certain products and industry sectors which Carter Inc. were particularly interested in. I also had the opportunity to do some regional sales where I travelled around Michigan, Chicago, Indiana and Texas for scheduled meetings and drop-ins.

Working in Sales, and Business Development Roles outside of Carter USA

I began working at Carter UK mainly focussing on the sales inbox and supporting Unasis, Carter’s sister company. The role progressed through to business development once the team expanded and led me to the position of Head of Sales, managing the sales team and supporting the account and business development managers. Throughout this time I was exposed to many external trips due to it being through the post-Covid period when everyone was keen to meet again. I visited Germany, Sweden and the USA to name a few locations where I was able to optimise business relationships, whilst the team managed the sales inbox back in the UK”.

Joining Carter UK – Progression through the Company

“The company recently expanded by opening new offices in both USA and Spain whilst also increasing our headcount at our UK HQ. The combination of this has meant we’ve gone through an internal re-structure creating an opportunity for more roles and promoting my role up to Sales Director. This means my role is even more varied and has shifted into many different elements of the business where I oversee the Sales Team and delegate down to our Technical Manager who can filter through the requirements and expectations to the Sales Team. My main interest and focus still lies within sales and customer relationships, so I manage my time by reviewing and optimising the Sales Team whilst also managing a select number of key accounts”.

We asked Francesca, Do you feel there were any barriers as a woman?

“There are fewer women employed in the bearing industry, compared to other manufacturing sectors, so initially it can be daunting. I didn’t have a technical upbringing so I’ve had to rely on the engineers to fill the gaps in my knowledge. I think it can be seen as a bit of an old boys club with an assumption that as a woman I don’t know what I’m talking about! But I don’t feel like I’ve ever not been taken seriously because of my gender”.

Do you see growth in women in the bearing industry?

“At the first BearingNet conference in the early 2000’s I can remember seeing roughly four to five women in total, since then the female representation has grown and grown, probably by as much as three to four

times. Looking more locally Elif has recently joined us as the first female Engineer at Carter and I’ve definitely seen progression in the last few years”. To sum up her journey so far and her hopes for the future, Francesca comments, “I can definitely see a movement in the Bearing industry which includes and holds space for more women. It’s definitely inspiring to see this growth and change offering equal opportunities to both males and females and I look forward to seeing what the future holds”.

More at:   https://www.carterbearings.co.uk/

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