Category: testimonial, Engineering, Manufacturing and Engineering, gender diversity, inspirational women, Mentoring, Gender Balance, Staff Testimonial, Siemens, manufacturing, gender bias, women in engineering, International Women's Day 2020, mentor
Louise Ward is the Health and Safety Environment and Quality Director at Siemens and heads up 120 health and safety workers across the business, setting the tone and strategy for the whole department.
“Not many people choose to go into health and safety but I chose it while at school and doing A-levels. I have lots of tech skills. You’ve got to know a little bit about a lot of things and have a network to back that up. Really it’s all about leadership, engagement and having effective conversations,” said Louise.
Louise has worked in a male dominated environment throughout her career but is optimistic about the diverse culture within Siemens and the open approach to women in leadership.
“We have a very open approach to this of right from the top. Our CEO is very prominent in this area and keen that we have a diverse culture in the business and we’re doing a lot of work to promote that. We’re honest with ourselves that there is still progress to be made and there are lots of plans to help us become more balanced as time goes on,” said Louise.
With her experience in health and safety spanning national defence, publishing, railways, banking and finance, manufacturing and technology, Louise has gained instrumental knowledge across the industry. Health and safety is still very much a male dominated industry and just 20% of applicants for jobs in the manufacturing sector on VERCIDA.com are women.
“As a young woman, walking into an environment that’s all men can be quite daunting. One occasion when I was in the rail industry I was in chairing a meeting populated by middle aged men and someone assumed I was the secretary. But I’ve always tried to be me and be natural me so I come across in a genuine way. If you try and do what people expect you to do it can come across as false,” said Louise.
Louise has struggled with the practical side of being a woman in a male dominated environment with issues like male only sized uniforms and a lack of ladies wash facilities.
“These things are real barriers and but I think it’s much better now. Having a ladies toilet available and shower facilities. It doesn’t have to be separate men’s and ladies but it needs to be private and hygienic,” said Louise.
By reporting on the gender pay gap, Siemens have seen the work they still need to do to bring gender parity to their business.
“I think the infrastructure is there to support men and women equally but not everybody is able to ask for help. Men find it harder to say if they’re not OK and we’ve done a lot of work on that. Nobody is ok all the time. There are multiple stresses on us all the time. If you’ve got a streaming cold or a broken leg people can see it but if your life is impacting on your mental wellbeing people can’t see it. We’re trying to enable a culture where we can have those conversations that there is a recognition across the company where it’s ok not to be ok,” said Louise.
As well as being a practicing health and safety specialist, Louise has been involved in the development of legislation, guidance material and regulatory policy. She has a particular interest in professional development and supports a number of initiatives in this area.
“What makes Lou special, is that she’s changing the mind-set in our organisation on inclusivity and also developing an open conversation culture across Siemens Mobility,” said Savin Sathyanath, Talent Acquisition Manager, UK & Western Europe at Siemens Mobility Limited.
Louise is a visiting lecturer at Middlesex University and a member of a trailblazer group developing degree level apprenticeships. She writes regularly for the trade press, and recently co-authored a handbook about wellbeing which has been published by Routledge.
She currently mentors four people, two inside the organisation and two outside and also networks to help support other HSEQ professionals.
When asked why diversity is important Louise said:
“Everybody brings something different, everybody is a product of their life, not just work experience and the more diversity you have in thinking, approaches and ideas the better for the business. It’s about embracing the potential we have with our people. It’s about embracing a culture where everybody brings that and helps bring the business forward.”