Celebrating women in a “man’s world” is Malcolm Knott’s aim.
The managing director of Industrial Technology Systems (ITS) had already decided, after discussion with his female employees, to sponsor the Breaking The Mould category in the upcoming Tees Businesswomen Awards “because that’s just what each and every one of them is doing.”
But Malcolm wanted to go further and give the ladies of ITS a chance to have their voices heard.
“The women who work here are employed on their merits. Many of them are in senior roles and excel at what they do, but I’m also aware that some have had a far from smooth journey to the top,” says Malcolm.
“I wanted to take this opportunity to raise their profiles and celebrate their achievements.”
Meet the team
Joanne Rout, Sales Account Manager
“I’ve worked in the chemical industry for most of my career, for ICI, Johnson Matthey and also for NEPIC,” says Joanne.
“After a period focusing on business support, I realised I wanted to move back into industry and joined ITS just over a year ago.”
Joanne says that during her career she has noted both conscious and unconscious bias against females in engineering.
“This bias is probably one of the reasons that numbers are low,” she says.
“However, when I started at ITS, It was refreshing to see that a higher than normal proportion of the engineers were female.”
While at ITS, Joanne has been encouraged to carry on with a project she became involved with nearly 15 years ago.
“The Children Challenging Industry (CCI) programme aims to show primary school children what it’s like to be a scientist or an engineer in industry,” she explains.
“ITS is supporting CCI’s work by making video clips of our engineers talking about their jobs.”
“It’s a great way to show girls (and boys) that doors are open to different types of careers.”
Laura O’Neill, project engineer
“I started at ITS in 1999 as a design technician on a modern apprenticeship scheme via a training programme called Enter,” says Laura.
“I will be honest, I’d never thought of engineering as a career.
“After doing my A levels, most careers advisors pushed me toward teaching, which I just wasn’t interested in. Engineering for a woman wasn’t openly discussed as an option.”
Laura liked the idea of an apprenticeship that allowed her to study part-time for a degree and also learn “on the job”.
“When I had the interview at ITS I knew it was the company for me,” she said.
“There were already two female engineers, so I had role models. I was made to feel included and never singled out in any way because of my gender.”
Years later, when she married and started a family, ITS went over and above her expectations when it came to job flexibility.
“After my first child was born I went back full time but hated it. I felt far too pressured. A part-time role was suggested, which was great.
“After my second baby I did three days with shorter hours moving up to four and then five as the girls got older.
“In this day and age it’s so important to feel included and to have understanding employers. ITS have always been ahead of their time.”
Carole Wynne, operations improvement manager
“This is my second stint at ITS,” laughs Carole.
“I started working for them in 2000 as a junior engineer, left to pursue other career choices and returned six years ago.”
While Carole has always worked in the sector, she has seen great progress made when it comes to attitudes toward women.
“In the last five years the industry has adapted and pivoted. In the past, to be an engineer, you had to work long and arduous hours so, of course, many women had to take a step back when they had families.
“Having a family never changed my loyalty and commitment to hard work, and it is acknowledged that women can bring gold to a company – as long as there is flexibility.”
“ITS has recognised women in our business at all levels, and that demonstrates the value that is placed upon its female workforce. We are all passionately driven to motivate and inspire others”
ITS has certainly done its part to be a driving force for this change.
“Here, every woman is valued for what she contributes. We are seen as role models for future generations, and that’s fantastic.”
Kaitlyn Atkinson, project engineer
With three months left of an apprenticeship, Kaitlyn was devastated when the company she was working for went bust. Step in ITS, which offered to let her finish her course at NETA and complete her apprenticeship with them.
“I’ve been here ever since,” laughs Kaitlyn, who has chalked up four years of service.
“ITS is a lovely company, which offers a great career path. They never discriminate because I’m a woman and are fully supportive of my aim to be a project manager.”
Such support was a breath of fresh air for Kaitlyn, who had been refused the chance to do engineering at school because she would be the only female student in the classroom and was one of only two women among 200 men on her college course at NETA.
“I’ve no regrets at all about my career choice,” she says. “Some may have been less than encouraging, but I love my job and, of course, I’ve fallen on my feet working here!”
Karen Stott, project manager
When Karen studied electrical and electronic engineering she was the only woman on her courses. Years later she found herself in charge of a department of men and it’s safe to say that some begrudged a female boss.
“You learn to rise above it, though it’s not right,” admits Karen. “Working for ITS for the last seven years has been a breath of fresh air.
“There’s a female in every role – except a director – we will have to change that!” she jokes. “Seriously, though, I’ve always felt very encouraged and never that I shouldn’t be in this role.”
Karen is also involved in CCI and is particularly keen to see the project rolled out into secondary schools to encourage more girls into the field.