Nikki Duncan
Posted on 22 Sep 2014

Women in Manufacturing: it's about being capable

Michelmores Employment Partner Nikki Duncan, interviews Catherine Harris, Managing Director of Algram Group Ltd regarding women in the Manufacturing sector, here is what she had to say...

As a qualified accountant, I was recruited as Finance Manager 13 years ago by Algram, - the Plymouth based Plastics Engineering company who is a subsidiary of the Japanese Opto-Electronics giant Olympus.  

I have never been the average ‘Bean Counter’ who is happy number crunching all day, so it was no real surprise that during the 7 years within this position, I quickly and progressively became more heavily involved with the broader running of the business.  

It was 2008 I was first appointed onto the Algram Board, as Operations Director.  

As a result of this appointment I gained extensive knowledge of contemporary manufacturing techniques, much of this through visits to Olympus Manufacturing facilities in Japan.  

In 2011 I was then appointed to the position of Managing Director of Algram and took over full responsibility for running this manufacturing facility, which at present employees around 200 people.

I often find myself wondering why there are so few women in senior positions within the manufacturing / engineering sector.

Sometimes I am asked whether you need to have an engineering background to be running a company that manufactures and supplies products into the medical, aerospace and automotive sectors.  My personal belief is that with sufficient intelligence and a willingness to learn, plus drive and passion to succeed, anyone can do any job they want to.  You need a logical thought process and must have the confidence and ability to challenge well qualified engineers when required.  

I do not think women are handicapped in achieving these high positions; I am the only female Board Director of an Olympus owned company within the UK.  You have to be hungry for it.  In Japan, especially away from Tokyo, colleagues often found it difficult to communicate with women on important business matters. However I have overcome this issue by being confident about my capability and I have now earned the respect and trust of these colleagues.   

My advice to any women who are trying to get up the ladder within manufacturing is to listen and learn.  If you are ambitious and you are prepared to work the rewards will come as they have done for me.  Everyone is equal, it is not about being a man or a woman, it’s about being capable.