This woman’s work - a woman's perspective

DK Holdings’ marketing assistant, Julia Loeser
DK Holdings’ marketing assistant, Julia Loeser

“We’ve come so far but still have a long way to go”. DK Holdings’ marketing assistant, Julia Loeser provides a woman’s perspective on working in the composite industry.

“So, are you up to date on all things Composites then?” This is the question I was asked a few days before going to Paris as one of the team representing DK Holdings’ Diamond Tooling range at JEC World. And there is no prize for guessing what gender that person was.

My career in the manufacturing sector began in 2021 after a chance encounter with the job ad for a sales & marketing assistant at DK Holdings, a company with a long tradition of manufacturing diamond tools for the composite industry and a stone’s throw from my home in Staplehurst. Since then, I’ve made many connections within the composites community and learned a lot about it in the process - and I love it!

“It’s still an old boys club”, a female counterpart in the industry said to me when we talked about female representation in manufacturing. This is true to an extent and made me think a little bit more about the subject and the unconscious bias that still exists around the subject of women being something other than office clerks or the ones who make the tea.

It does not come as a surprise that according to a study by Engineering UK, in 2021 only 16.5% of engineers in the UK were female. On a positive note, this is a 6% increase from 2010. I don’t think this is purely down to companies choosing not to employ female members of staff but the sheer lack of them around. DK Holdings for example regularly advertises apprenticeship and trainee roles – open to all - but we’ve not had one female applicant for our production area for some time.

Despite efforts by sector leaders to push STEM at an educational level, I have witnessed a distinct lack of a female network in the industry since joining. Women are still considered weak when demonstrating empathy or any form of emotion when companies should be considering these ‘feminine’ traits as merits.

So, what can we do about it? Traditional models of management need to be challenged, with empathy being treated as a merit. Workforces and leaders must acknowledge the need to invest in their future, and women must be promoted to give them the legitimacy and position to challenge harmful forms of discrimination faced in the sector. Positions should go to those most deserving, but the decision-making process must develop to allow for empathy, emotion, and passion for the sector. 

Treated as equals

It is not all doom and gloom though, I am lucky enough to work at a company that has acknowledged stereotypes need breaking down and our senior management continuously works to ensure women are heard, rewarded and treated as equals.

The composite community is doing a marvellous job at promoting women and highlighting young female talent in the sector. JEC Group for example has a ‘Women in Composites’ community page which I find inspiring. Composites UK, the trade association dedicated to supporting the UK composites supply chain, has a fabulous group of females whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Paris recently while exhibiting via their Pavilion at JEC World earlier this year.

After three years of being in the industry I have been able to build a tremendous network of people, both female and male, and will continue working with them all to break down the negative stereotypes associated with women in the manufacturing sector.

Everyone deserves to feel worthy of their position, to be heard in meetings, and to be treated with the respect their work affords, whatever their gender.

www.dk-holdings.co.uk

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