On International Women’s Day, we talk to female leaders about what it is to be a woman in their sector, with an eye on quality and a responsibility for maintaining accreditation in 2022.
Lorraine Turner, Accreditation Director, UKAS:
I have been with UKAS for over 25 years and during that time it has been so good to see such a significant increase in the number of women working in conformity assessment and accreditation.
A lot more focus is given today on encouraging women into STEM roles and ensuring equality of opportunity to enable women to fulfil their potential. However, this position has been hard-won and represents an ongoing journey to ensure that we have a diverse and inclusive profession.
At UKAS we support International Women’s Day as a means of progressing this agenda, and this year’s theme, ‘breaking the bias’, focusses on providing women access to careers where they have traditionally been underrepresented.
As the number of technical areas that accreditation covers has grown, UKAS has been fortunate to recruit an equally diverse workforce. At UKAS I have the privilege to work with some amazing, dedicated and intelligent women and have seen many progress their careers to senior leadership roles.
Day-to-day, as Accreditation Director, I am brought into contact with women at the forefront of important and innovative initiatives, all of which are underpinned by accreditation.
We have asked a selection of these individuals to share their thoughts on what it is to be a woman in their sector, with an eye on quality and a responsibility for maintaining accreditation in 2022:
Dina Patel, Scientific Director, UK NEQAS:
I am a strong believer in providing women with opportunities to advance their careers. I have been very fortunate as I have had these opportunities myself, and developed a successful career working in UK NEQAS Immunology, Immunochemistry & Allergy (IIA) within Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.
This background allows me to innovate and deliver a high-quality, agile service within the sphere of external quality assessment/ proficiency testing for clinical laboratories globally.
International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements and increase their visibility, not only in the workplace but across all areas of life. This is key as inclusive teams are more effective and can initiate better ideas and better decision making.
It is important to remain vigilant and call out inequality, which also means maintaining awareness of our own biases to avert decisions being made on biased viewpoints.
Claire Stone, Group Quality Director, i2Analytical:
i2 has always been an organisation that supports women in science and encourages equal opportunities. The Quality team responsible for maintaining accreditation is diverse in age and gender. The whole team, myself included, had a career journey that started with the actual testing.
As a business we embrace International Women’s Day, particularly in our Polish laboratory, which has an approximately 70% female workforce!
Alya Shakir, Managing Director, Harley Street Health Centre:
I have been working in the primary care sector for 15 years. Women make up 73% of medical and healthcare managers but only 18% of healthcare CEOs, so there is clearly some way to go in addressing this disparity.
Disparity is also seen clinically – the majority of medical students are women but only 32% of consultants are female. However, the conversation is live and happening, with research and progress reports being made by organisations such as the King’s Fund, which is positive.
Women don’t have issues at entry-level. Instead, these seem to arrive in the transition between senior management and executive roles. I would like to see more research and investigation to understand what happens at that point for women. What deters them? What obstacles do they face? We can’t find solutions without fully understanding the problem.
Bal Gill, Managing Director, ForeFront Certification Limited
The accountability to manage ForeFront Certification management systems for compliance to ISO 17021 is rewarding. The UKAS remote surveillance audit in February 2022 involved presenting our records efficiently. The retrieval of information and sharing to relevant interested parties in a timely manner is a great service.
All of this work is supported by the quality standards in place playing a significant part for business efficiency. Our processes and systems are created to align a workplace culture that facilitates working in collaboration with male counterparts, providing an environment where everyone can feel able to contribute to the continued success of our company.
Bhavika Ramrakhyani, Head of Materials, Costain Limited
I have been working in the construction sector for 27 years and am currently Head of Materials with Costain Limited.
There are many stigmas around women working in construction, particularly Materials as it’s being dominated by men for years and women can feel very unwelcome. This is compounded by the outdated perception that the industry comprises solely of digging holes and undertaking concrete works.
It is important that we normalise the idea of women undertaking roles in construction. I try to do this through my role as STEM ambassador, by celebrating women already in the industry, encouraging them to act as role models. I undertake outreach visits and programmes in conjunction with schools and other educational establishments, to showcase the variety of careers in the construction and compliance Sector.
We need to offer equal opportunities for female staff all the way up to senior management roles, as quite a few women who have started in this sector, leave due to lack of career advancement.
The gender pay gap is especially problematic in the construction sector, with a staggering 41% pay gap between male and female construction supervisors. The industry should be making sure that all staff, both male and female, are being paid equally for the same work. This will show your female employees that they’re valued just as much as their male equivalents and will be more likely to attract women to these roles.
Clearly there is still a long way to go to bring more women into the construction sector, but a proactive approach can help us bring diverse thoughts into the sector.
Tex Rees, Director, eCOGRA Limited
My career with eCOGRA began in 2003, when the iGaming business was still predominantly male. Over the past 20 years the industry has changed dramatically, with technological developments allowing iGaming companies to access new markets and attract new resources.
iGaming is mainstream entertainment that speaks to people from all walks of life. As a result, we’re seeing a lot more women working in iGaming and the supporting services at all levels of management. Many companies are striving to improve diversity and gender equality through forums like Global Gaming Women and the All-in Diversity Project.
eCOGRA has an internal women’s forum where participants can openly discuss issues affecting them and be supported by their female colleagues. The industry is continuously evolving and becoming a lot more welcoming and accessible to a growing female resource market. There is still a long way to go, but women are making an impact on the industry at every level.
The iGaming industry is dynamic and exciting, with new technology driving growth. The supporting services of compliance, cybersecurity, advertising and game development are open to all and provide varied career paths. I would encourage women to embrace different industries and be confident that their skills are transferable. Be bold and ambitious, apply for positions that you may not think you are ready for – you have nothing to lose and everything to gain!