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Engineering: Not just a man’s world

A skilled engineer in a senior hands-on role, Libby Peacock shares her story to encourage more women and girls to enter the engineering profession.

As Product Manager for Pneumatics at Brammer Buck & Hickman, Libby has around twenty years’ experience in the pneumatics industry. Starting her career in a small engineering company making appointments for the sales team, Libby’s manager encouraged her to cement her on-the-job knowledge by attending night school.   

Libby explains, “The class was full of men who were in fairly senior roles with lots of technical experience. I knew my company’s catalogue and products inside out and could recite their technical details by rote, but I didn’t have the experience or knowledge of my class mates.”

What Libby did have, however, was a desire to learn. That, combined with having no fear of asking what might be deemed ‘silly questions’, saw Libby discover an appetite for engineering, finish her course top of the class and excel in her chosen profession.

In her role at Brammer Buck & Hickman, a leading supplier of industrial supplies, Libby is directly involved in working with the end user. It was through this customer interaction that Libby developed a real passion and understanding of how her knowledge could offer customers solid business benefits and cost efficiencies.

Libby commented, “I’ve found the best thing about working in this industry is that there’s always an opportunity to do things better, abandon fixed ideas and reinvent the wheel. That keeps work very exciting! I thrive on building relationships with customers. I was used to going on site visits and helping customers to identify the parts and the products that might help them to realise efficiencies, but it was the added value advice I was able to offer that really seemed to resonate and helped to build relationships with customers. I think one of my proudest moments was saving an automotive factory £130,000 on their energy bills by recommending a small tweak to their production line.”

Asked whether she has ever felt that being female has held her back in a male dominated environment, Libby is pragmatic, “To be honest, the only person who has ever doubted my ability is me – but we all do that, don’t we? If anything, I’ve found that people appear more open to my advice than they might be to the same guidance being given by a male colleague. There’s no getting away from the fact that men and women may approach a situation in a different way – whether it is practical problem solving or a different communication style – which is exactly why having a gender balance is important.”

Females represent 1 in 5 senior roles at Brammer Buck & Hickman, a significantly higher proportion than in the engineering sector, which stands at 11%.  With the annual shortfall of engineering skills anywhere between 25,500 and up to 60,000 people, there’s still an urgent need to encourage young people, whatever their gender, to consider engineering roles.

Libby concludes, “The biggest barrier to young women entering engineering roles is still that there’s a lack of visibility of women doing traditionally ‘male’ jobs. I think it is important to raise awareness of engineering as a career in order to build the talent pool for the UK engineering sector. My advice to people considering a technical career is to just go for it. Do what you’re good at and don’t be put off by stereotypes.”

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