Nominees don’t just have to be individuals or even women; in the organisational category, the recipient is a business or organisation which has created a culture within the workplace that encourages female employees to achieve their full potential.
Women and girls represent half of the world’s population so this is a vast pool of aptitude, talent and scope for businesses to tap into.
There is no tool for development more effective than empowerment of women.
One of this year’s organisational honourees is Castings Technology International (Cti), an aerospace and high-value manufacturer which is based at the Advanced Manufacturing Park.
Their expertise lies in the production of castings in materials such as titanium, aluminium and nickel-based super alloys, working to the tight tolerances and specifications demanded by those sectors.
The company’s roots trace back to the 1920s and the male-dominated iron and steel foundries. Yet, their very deliberate plan to increase diversity, primarily by recruiting women into the business, has helped to stimulate growth in both sales and productivity.
Out of the 57 employees who work on the shop floor at Cti, ten are women from diverse technical and cultural backgrounds, some undoubtedly representing ‘female firsts’ in such roles.
There are two new female managers on the shop floor; Kirsty Simnet who is ferrous finishing departmental supervisor and Gill Walker who is the non-ferrous finishing department manager.
In the finishing department, Aneta Oleksy has recently qualified as a titanium welder of aerospace castings – seemingly, the first female to do so in the UK and perhaps even further afield.
Aneta joined Cti as a fettler in 2017 after being recruited from outside the industry. Having come from an assembly line background, she had no previous experience and therefore no preconceptions about the role, meaning she could be trained and developed using her innate coordination skills and thoroughness to consistently finish components to within a few microns.
“If something must be done a certain way, women tend to listen better, are generally more dextrous with an eye for detail and, importantly, are reluctant to make uncontrolled changes to the process.
“Whereas men who may have 20 years of experience might decide ‘they know better’ and start altering things. If the process then falters, it is extremely difficult to trace back where it all went wrong. Aneta has a great attitude to work that we really liked,” Operations Manager, Ryan Longden says.
After one year with the company, Aneta was promoted to trainee welder before embarking on a two-year course to become a titanium welder.
Following previous attempts to achieve their diversity aims, Cti have recently employed their first female apprentice, 17-year-old Abbie Green, who is probably the only female methods and design engineer apprentice in Europe.
Abbie was the only young woman to apply for the apprenticeship but Ryan says she was also the best applicant by far. An ‘A* pupil’ at school, Abbie could have gone to university, but chose the apprenticeship route to learn on-the-job in an industry she was fascinated by.
“Abbie has a clear interest in design and likes to be challenged so we snapped her up. Once her apprenticeship has finished, we will gladly consider further education support options,” Ryan says.
Learning constantly is one of ATHENA’s eight core attributes reflective of women’s contributions to leadership and Cti offer their employees the chance to expand and develop their knowledge, skills and experience across the board. General Manager, Richard Cook, invests in training if he can see potential, both for the individual and the business.
HR Co-ordinator, Lauren Bretnall, has progressed through the company since starting as an administrator in 2004. Before her current role, she had been promoted through the organisation to become executive assistant to the senior management team.
Cti initiated her HR qualifications following an appraisal discussion in 2018 and Lauren is about to commence level five of the course which is equivalent to degree-level study.
“Everything we’ve achieved at Cti over the last five or six years could not have been realised without Lauren’s growing HR expertise. Up until recently, our industry has always been very stereotypical and uncompromising in its thinking, but we’ve opened our eyes to the huge opportunities workplace diversity represents,” Ryan says.
One of the most important objectives for Cti moving forward is to assure that same diversity at all levels in the organisation and, to that end, have recently appointed a woman on to the senior management team, Hannah Green, who is their new quality manager. Again, this shifts the decision-making dynamic.
Hannah herself started as a metallurgy apprentice at British Steel in 1996 and went on to obtain a degree in Materials Engineering. She has worked within engineering quality functions for many years and joined Cti in January to initially oversee the company’s multi-faceted Quality Management System.
“If you’d have even mentioned ‘a woman’ working in foundries 30 years ago when I started in the trade, they’d have thought you were joking. Things have improved but there are still some companies that short-sightedly avoid recruiting women due to concerns over issues such as maternity leave and childcare.
“We believe in equal pay and rights at Cti and consider that it should be the norm. But I’ll know we’ve really cracked equality once a woman joins the air melt team; it’s the most male-dominated part of the business as it’s very laborious, hot and heavy work,” Ryan says.