A woman's superpower is to be seen and heard
Glenda Roberts, Global Projects and Marketing Director at Trifast Plc, is a woman with her finger on the pulse and her eyes on the future.
This article originally appeared in the Dec'22 magazine issue of Electronic Specifier Design – see ES's Magazine Archives for more featured publications.
Starting her career as a Sales Manager in the world of fast-moving consumables, Glenda began to realise that, at the time, there were inequalities in the industry. There was also the growing popularity of computerisation, and she could see that her role in sales may eventually yield to technology.
“The biggest problem I had was that it wasn’t equal pay. I was doing the same role as the men, but I wasn’t being paid the same [despite] the Equal Pay Act, which [did] exist then. I could also see with the advent of computerisation there wouldn’t be as many [sales] people working out on the road.”
This foresight encouraged her to change trajectory. She signed up with an agency, which led to her first role in the world of fastenings. At the time, she knew nothing about the industry, and the words “what have I done” echoed in her mind. However, this was just the first step of a long and successful career. A career that she still enjoys until this day.
Encouragement and support
Glenda believes that with the right encouragement and support, more women can feel confident and comfortable joining the engineering industry.
“If you've got an opinion, don't just sit there and then talk about it afterwards. Get it out on the table. Women can be confident if they've researched their subject. Don't [be a space- filler], talk with some knowledge, and then listen to advice.”
Glenda was headhunted by Malcolm Diamond, who, at the time, was the Managing Director of TR Fastenings, a division of the Trifast plc Group. She comments, rather unassumingly, that she “must have caught his attention” and with that, she made the move to TR Fastenings, and a career that has spanned more than 30 years.
“I've always been lucky. I've had some good mentors that have helped and guided me. I think women having mentors, whether they're male or female, is really good because it encourages them to push the boundaries and go the extra mile.
“I worked with some people that were very patient and [they] coached me and I [went on] to become the UK Sales Director.”
An enquiring mind
When working in an environment that is perceived to be predominantly male, Glenda stresses the importance of remembering that being female can be a superpower. As long as they’re engaged, they can offer a different perspective.
“I have a questioning mind, so … I was able to ask questions … It was important that I knew enough without pretending I was an engineer … It's amazing what you pick up, and you don't know what you know until you meet someone else that doesn't know it.”
As the company expanded, forward-thinking Glenda realised that working with multinational companies meant that you really had to do your research and understand your subject.
“You've got to be able to hold your own, especially when it is [a] very male dominated [room]. You could be facing five or six men across the boardroom table, selling a TR [product] and all the systems and services [they provide].”
As well as being prepared, Glenda stresses the importance of delivering what you promise by the deadline.
“One of the things that always stood me in good stead was if you committed to doing something by a certain date, is that you did it and on time. You got a quiet respect.
“As soon as [clients] realise you're more than somebody that only understands a part number, and that you're asking intelligent questions … they know they can rely on you.”
An opportunity at every turn
Over the years, Glenda has seen the company expand from six UK sites to 34 internationally. One of the biggest changes she notes is that clients now ask companies to be involved at a much earlier stage in the design process, which means there are even more opportunities for women to get involved at every stage.
However, Glenda acknowledges that success isn’t individual, and that you need a good team around you. Because of this, she endeavours to surround herself with people who know more than her on any given subject. In turn the knowledge and expertise she learns from them is invaluable.
“I look for people who have got their antenna up. You can see that they're interested, they're listening and they're putting themselves forward. Sometimes you just need [to give them] that little push over the edge to say you can do this.”
Glenda notes that there aren’t many female engineers in the fastenings industry, which she attributes to a misconception about the working environment.
“[We don’t recruit a lot of lady engineers] people tend to think that it's not a nice environment to work in, but there's nothing further from the truth … I just wish more people, particularly ladies, understood that it's a great [working] environment.”
Glenda is keen to impart that being an apprentice is a great way to start an engineering career and accolades the TR Fastenings programme. She boasts its broad scope, which
offers apprentices the opportunity to explore every facet of the company before deciding which direction they want to progress their career.
Being a member of the American based organisation ‘Women in the Fastener Industry’ (WiFi), has afforded Glenda the privilege to speak about the opportunities within the industry. One of the things she spoke about was the gender pay gap.
“At the time, gender pay gap was very important. And because we're a plc, we have to publish our gender pay gap. I'm proud to say that within TR that year , the ladies pay was in line with the men's [pay]. And within our UK operations, seven out of eight of our site managers, general managers running our sites, were ladies.”
What the future holds
With the clock counting down to net zero, Glenda knows all too well the importance of having a sustainable environmental policy in place. In fact, with new legislation coming out, domestic fastenings are playing a greater role than ever before.
The ‘Right to Repair’ legislation means that if a domestic appliance breaks down, it must be able to be disassembled and the moving part replaceable – meaning the whole appliance doesn’t get sent to landfill, which is great for the environment.
Glenda also believes “without a shadow of a doubt” that electric vehicles and battery technology are another avenue in which the fastening industry is growing.
The opportunities for women in the engineering industry, covering every avenue, are vast, and if you ever doubted yourself, remember these words: “Just because you’re not an engineer, don't think you can't get involved. I'm a classic example” – Glenda Roberts, TR Fastenings.