In support of Sonita’s comments, the following five individuals reiterate the importance of mentorship, offering invaluable advice and serving as role models for women and girls considering a career in manufacturing.   

Fiona Coomer
Research and Development Programme Manager at Echion Technologies

Dr Fiona Coomer

Having studied at Cambridge University, Dr Fiona Coomer went on to gain a doctorate in materials chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, later joining the Product Innovation team at Johnson Matthey. She is now Research and Development Programme Manager at Echion Technologies, where she is responsible for guiding the development of Echion’s products, including the innovative XNO® anode material.

“Throughout my career, I have led research and development teams at leading companies across the supply chain,” she begins. “I have been supported by and learnt from some incredible women, and truly believe in the power of diversity; the more perspectives involved, the better the product. Diversity of gender, nationality, educational background, and life experience all contribute towards a great melting pot of ideas, enabling us to create products that serve the widest possible consumer base.

“Careers are not always linear and things may not always go as planned, but our past experiences make us who we are and I have found that even negative experiences have helped to make me a better leader. I now realize the importance of valuing yourself and I’m no longer afraid to walk away from situations where I’m not respected for who I am.

“The message that girls can do anything is as crucial now as it ever has been,” she concludes. “It is so important to me that in my spare time, I volunteer as a leader for Girlguiding where I help to inspire the next generation to try anything, no matter how adventurous.”

Rasha Hasaneen
Chief Products and Sustainability Officer at AspenTech

Rasha Hasaneen

Rasha Hasaneen currently occupies the position of Chief Products and Sustainability Officer at AspenTech, a leader in the global asset management software market. In a similar fashion to Sonita Lontoh, Rasha has established a successful career by combining her passion for business, her skills as a technical expert, and a purpose of human wellbeing and sustainability.

“While I began my career as an engineer, I had always been interested in the business side of engineering, so I went into product management and strategy as it allowed me to combine my technical expertise with my interest in business,” Rasha opens. “About mid-way through my career, I became very interested in the intersection of business, human well-being, and climate, and it was clear to me that where the rubber was really going to meet the road was around the intersection of industrial software and sustainability.

“I came to AspenTech to work with a team of individuals who really understood industrial software and could make an impact on not just one major company, but many. Thanks to a mix of tenacity, capability, and some luck, I’ve had a pretty vertical career trajectory. While there are some industries where senior management and boards are not as diverse as we’d like them to be, progress has been made.

“We’re still in the early days of our journey, but there is a concerted effort to fill those top jobs with diverse candidates. I believe that companies need to stay the course, continue to create an inclusive environment, and proactively open opportunities at the most senior levels, because the fundamentals around having diverse teams, leadership, and boards are there.

“For women early in their career, role models and mentors are incredibly important, and the advice I would give is to seek out not just mentors that have a similar journey to yours and can relate, but someone who will push you and challenge you, even though it may be uncomfortable,” she proposes. “As you progress in your career, however, I think it’s particularly important to find sponsors; people who will vouch for you and your potential, not just your accomplishments. People who will stand up and say, ‘this is the person you need,’ when given the opportunity to advocate for you.”

Kerrie Jordan
Group Vice President of Product Management at Epicor

Kerrie Jordan

Kerrie Jordan is the Group Vice President of Product Management at Epicor, a software company providing end-to-end ERP systems aimed at the manufacturing industry. “In my current role, I rely on data, leveraging tech like AI and cloud solutions to solve complex challenges,” Kerrie opens.

“I have nearly two decades experience in software technology, but my journey began in Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). Software can be fairly intangible, and what really drives me is building that into something tangible. PLM software is just that, tracing an idea to design and pulling together the raw materials to create products that really come to life.

“I’ve observed growth in opportunities for women in manufacturing, yet there is a continuous need for enhanced diversity and support. As a leader, I am a strong advocate for mentoring and presenting visible female role models like one of mine, Lisa Pope, Epicor President, as well as implementing upskilling programs and expanding educational outreach to K-12. These are essential strategies for cultivating diversity in manufacturing.”

Kerrie is passionate about getting women and girls excited about manufacturing. “For me, it was the storytelling aspect of this industry that drew me in; manufacturing is endlessly fascinating, and we just need to tell its story to inspire the next generation,” she argues.

“My advice to young women entering the field is to remain true to your curious and authentic selves,” Kerrie concludes. “Your unique viewpoints and creativity are invaluable assets. I envision a future where women’s presence is significantly amplified at all levels of manufacturing, driven by advancements in tech and a commitment to inclusivity.”

Lucy Ackland
Lead Product Owner at Renishaw plc

Lucy Ackland

Lucy Ackland is a Lead Product Owner at Renishaw plc, a pioneering engineering company specializing in coordinate measuring machines and machine tools. “As a Lead Product Owner working on complex metrology software for the manufacturing industry, I am responsible for defining the requirements and then working with the development teams to implement them,” Lucy opens.

Lucy started in the industry as an engineering apprentice at the age of 16 and has since had a varied and interesting career spanning production, measurement sensor design, metal 3D printing, research projects, and metrology applications.

“As part of my apprenticeship, I studied part-time and gained a degree in Mechanical and Manufacturing engineering. I went on to win the Women’s Engineering Society Prize at the IET’s Young Women in Engineering awards and was named one of the top 50 women in engineering.

“Over my career I have seen huge changes in the number of women starting in the industry and the focus now being given to Equality, Diversity & Inclusion,” she reflects. “There is still a long way to go but I’m happy to see the increasing momentum. I see mentoring opportunities for women in the industry as an easy way of making a big impact on progression, development, and retention.

“I have had many amazing opportunities by having a ‘yes’ attitude, however I would encourage young women to learn when it’s right to say ‘no.’ This is important to avoid burnout and to keep a focus on your personal development plan.”

Lucy’s career not only reflects the importance of apprenticeship schemes, but also speak to the ways in which companies can support women in their teams to further their careers.

Jenna Allen
Head of Engineering at Newcastle College

Jenna Allen

Jenna Allen brings a unique perspective from her decade long, barrier-breaking career to her current position as Head of Engineering at Newcastle College. Jenna has held various positions, including Construction and Engineering Ambassador in schools and colleges before transitioning into education as a lecturer.

“Throughout my journey in engineering, I’ve witnessed a positive shift in women’s involvement,” Jenna opens. “The industry is gradually recognizing that women offer a different perspective that fuels innovation to find effective solutions.

“We’ve come a long way in promoting inclusivity, but there’s still work to be done. It’s crucial to challenge stereotypes, break down barriers, and create an environment where every aspiring engineer, regardless of gender, feels empowered to thrive.

“My advice to young women and girls is to be fearless in pursuing your passions,” she says. “A wealth of opportunities are waiting to be explored, so embrace your individuality, leverage your strengths, and don’t be afraid to make your mark.”

With the support of local employers, Jenna and her team are shaping an enriched curriculum and student experience to tackle challenges that stem from a lack of diversity and to inspire the next generation of women in engineering and manufacturing.