Women in Tech

Gender balance in engineering roles shifts

23rd May 2024
Sheryl Miles

Data published in March 2022 highlights changes in the gender composition of the UK’s engineering workforce over the last eleven years, confirming that engineering remains predominantly male-dominated.

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 prime example of increased female involvement in engineering is found at precision bearing specialists Carter Manufacturing. Francesca Brundell-Romero, Sales Director at Carter Manufacturing, exemplifies this shift. Brundell-Romero has experienced the industry from a young age, with early exposures to bearing events and factory visits.

“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.”

As she got older, she began attending conferences, which she found beneficial for networking and staying updated on industry trends.

“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,” she said.

Visiting suppliers annually has been critical to maintaining relationships and ensuring manufacturing processes meet high standards.

“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.”

Brundell-Romero's academic and professional journey also contributed to her success. After studying International Business at Nottingham Trent University, she worked at Carter in Michigan, gaining valuable experience in external and internal sales, bearing assembly, and manufacturing.

“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,” she notes.

Her role evolved as she moved to Carter UK's headquarters, focusing initially on sales and business development, eventually leading to her current position as Sales Director.

“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.”

When asked about barriers as a woman in the industry, Brundell-Romero acknowledged the challenges but also highlighted the progress.

“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.”

She also observed growth in female representation at industry events. “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.”

She concludes: “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.”

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