Overcoming challenges for women in a male-dominated industry

Durham manufacturing business Taylormade Timber’s newly appointed Production & Engineering Director Lisa Thompson speaks to Julie Mordue, Client Relationship Manager, NRG about her career as a woman, in manufacturing.

Taylormade Timber is a family run business headquartered in Sherburn Hill, Durham. Using modern milling and processing equipment they manufacture bespoke home grown fencing, pallet and packaging timbers.

Lisa, tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to get into manufacturing/engineering?

From an early age my parents have always been my inspiration, they encouraged me to believe that I could achieve anything. Looking back now I realise just how much this positive environment and belief in me, enabled me to move into a predominantly man’s world where I knew there would be additional challenges to overcome in order to succeed.

I always intended to go onto further education and perhaps become a teacher or a lawyer. One day Mr Jarivs my DT Teacher talked to me about engineering apprenticeships.  The conversation really sparked an interest and I started to look at the options.

I was accepted onto an engineering apprenticeship at Black & Decker where over a six year period I completed electrical and mechanical BTEC’s, an engineering degree and an MBA. I loved every minute of my apprenticeship and working in a manufacturing environment.

I didn’t realise at the time how important one conversation with a teacher would be and what significant impact this would have on my life. This has led to have a passion to help children/young adults to understand that there are so many other options available that you cannot always see at a younger age and I have become a STEM Ambassador this year.

Where do you think this new role at Taylormade Timber will take you professionally?

I am so excited about my new role as Production and Engineering Director at Taylormade Timber. Previously, I’ve worked at global, blue chip companies such as Black & Decker, Nestle and Avery Dennison but as a medium size family run business Taylormade offers me many new challenges and I’m excited about the next few months and beyond.

I’ve always been keen to work for good employers too and for me that’s about the values and ethics of a company aligning with mine. I see this with Taylormade Timber, I understand what they are trying to achieve and I admire their roadmap to get there. They want to continually develop and grow whilst still caring for their employees. For me that’s a challenging and fun road ahead.

How do you manage being a full-time mother as well as juggling a senior leadership role within a large manufacturing operation?

I love my career and I get a lot of satisfaction from improving a business and developing people, but first and foremost I am a mother. There is a pressure on working mothers to be perfect, lots of us put this pressure on ourselves, or at least, I certainly do, but it’s about a balance, it’s about making the time with my daughter quality time. I have had professional support to help me to understand why I had certain ‘guilty’ feelings as a working full-time mother. This intervention really helped me to think about my situation differently, concentrate on the positives and how that as a working mam I was not having a negative impact on my daughter, in fact quite the contrary.

I am also seeing more of a positive move by organisations to find a balance for working women. Avery Dennison had several initiatives to help women work in an environment where they could succeed and this is how I would like to see all organisations develop. If we create an environment for women to be great mothers and provide a working environment where they can reach their potential, then everybody wins. Great advancements have been made but we are still on a long journey and every mile we take we unlock more and more potential that moves the industry forward.

Any advice for those seeking a similar role in manufacturing?

I’ve had a successful career in manufacturing because I’m passionate about what I do, good hiring managers can identify this driving force in me.

Working in manufacturing and seeing businesses gain real results from what I do is extremely rewarding.  My advice to anyone looking to work in manufacturing would be follow your passion, pursue what you love and success will follow.