The recent retirement of Denise Morrison as CEO of Campbell Soup has shone renewed light on the issue of female representation in the food industry, with the Scottish government pledging to invest in women in agriculture as recently as yesterday.
Ahead of International Women in Engineering Day tomorrow, Nina Sparks, general manager at Pladis’ largest biscuit factory in Europe, tells FoodBev why the industry needs to change young women’s perceptions of engineering.
BY NINA SPARKS
FACTORY GENERAL MANAGER FOR PLADIS
On 23 June, International Women in Engineering Day (IWIED) will shine light on an under-represented area for women globally that needs a bigger voice. This year’s theme, #RaiseTheBar, celebrates the achievements of women in engineering and encourages young female talent to aim higher, break stereotypes and consider career opportunities in engineering that they may not have previously considered.
Although the industry is arguably more diverse now than it ever has been, there is still a lot of work to be done to boost female uptake of engineering roles. Figures released by Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) last year showed that only 11% of the engineering workforce is female.
As a female engineer, and now the factory general manager of Pladis’ largest site in the UK where we produce the highest volume of McVitie’s biscuits, I believe that to successfully inspire women to join the industry, perceptions need to change.
Engineering isn’t about hard hats and overalls anymore. Female engineers across the world have a great role to play in demonstrating the reality of our jobs: no day is the same, we’re constantly challenged to find solutions to complex problems, and are crucial to the success of businesses in many sectors. Even at the beginning of a career with us, for example, young engineers are integral to the new product design and development process, helping our research and development experts turn new ideas from consumer insights into the cakes, snacks and biscuits that we see in stores.
Many girls discount engineering as a career option from a young age because of a lack of role models. At Pladis, we’ve found that mentoring schemes and networking sessions are the most effective ways to give young women exposure to the industry. We’re already seeing the results of these initiatives: in 2017, 50% of our engineering graduates were female; it’s a great start.
Now is the time for us to inspire engineers of the future. From water availability to energy security, some of the biggest issues facing our world today require the brainpower and leadership of engineers more than ever before. Inspiring women to take up a career in engineering is not just about improving career prospects and making the industry more equal, but also addressing serious skills shortages we face. Just last year, Engineering UK estimated that the country will need 1.82 million new engineers over the next ten years.
By empowering both men and women within our industry to change the perception of what the workforce looks like, together we can achieve incredible things and inspire young talent to reach their potential in the new and exciting world of engineering.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020