MAJOR East Durham employer ZF TRW has a longstanding commitment to promoting women into engineering roles.
And as Women in Engineering Day is celebrated today, two female engineers, and a schoolgirl on work experience at the Peterlee plant, speak out about the opportunities they have been given in the industry.
Karen Collins and Diane McGeorge boast a combined 49 years’ service at ZF TRW, both as engineers in different departments of the global automotive giant, which develops and produces active and passive safety systems for vehicle manufacturers worldwide.
Katie Barber, 14, a pupil at Cramlington Learning Village school, is on a two-week placement at the company spending time with employees in a selection of departments.
Karen, from Boldon, recalled her career with fellow students turning their noses up at her for wanting to pursue such a career.
She found her calling with ZF TRW, however, who believed she was the best person for the job in hand.
“I’m a New Product Introduction (NPI) engineer, which means I submit and explain new parts or mechanisms to the other engineers, ensuring a smooth transition onto the line for manufacture.
“I enjoy my job and I don’t walk into work thinking I’m carrying out a ‘male’ role. Although, it hasn’t always been like this. When I started a mechanical and production engineering course at college and one male student said to me, ‘what are you doing this for, you’re taking a man’s job’.
“That kind of attitude is terrible, but it’s not like that here. I’m treated no differently because I’m a woman and that’s how it should be.
“It would be good to see more women in engineering roles, but only if they were the right person for the job. That’s what it should be about.”
Diane, from Thornley, who works in the Continuous Improvement section of ZF TRW, started her career in what some may describe as a typically female role – a machinist for Dewhurst, after her dreams of becoming a nurse fell through.
But then she got a job as a production operator for ZF TRW in 1990, and since then has never looked back, working her way through the ranks.
Diane said: “People have a perception of engineering as working in some dirty, cold, laborious environment. It’s not like that. It’s really interesting and there are so many different avenues to go down. Women should not be scared about coming into engineering. There are some great careers in this area, and engineering skills are really needed in the region.”
Katie, who was one of only two girls in her whole year group to choose an engineering-type work experience placement, said she has massively enjoyed her placement at ZF TRW.
“It’s not what I thought it was going to be,” she said. “There are so many different areas which are all interesting in their own right, such as design, technology and maintenance. I’d have loved more girls from my school to come and try it, I think they’d be shocked at how good it is. I’m definitely thinking about it for my future career.”