Your Interview Eloise Reed


Eloise Reed

How long have you been involved in the lighting industry in total?

It’s been 27 years since I first rolled my first cable at a lighting rental company in Perth – yikes!

Have you always been involved in the manufacturing side or have you come from another part of the industry?

My background is in lighting design and a wide variety of technical experience from the entertainment and arts industries. I have a degree equivalent from WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) in Production & Design – Lighting. I’ve owned a business doing lighting for raves, worked as a technician and venue supervisor for large entertainment venues, as an in-house lighting technician at National Gallery of Victoria & Federation Square and then embarked upon a career as an architectural lighting designer in London before making the switch to manufacturing.

Do you feel that there is a wider diversity in sales, manufacturing and marketing over the last 20 years?

Manufacturing; not really. Women have always been in the minority when it comes to the manufacturing / specification side of the lighting industry when compared to the design and technical talent pool. This is noticeable across both the entertainment and architectural lighting industries.

Sales and marketing has seemed to attract more women and I feel the uptake has been more visible. More women seem to hold senior roles in the sales and marketing roles as compared to other C level roles such as CTO, CFO and CEO.

What reasons do you think there are so few women working for manufacturing companies? What obstacles do women come up against?

The sad residue from a massive “lad” culture. Until too recently it was still acceptable to end a client dinner at a seedy bar so I can see why that wouldn’t be attractive for young professional women. The underlying sexism has definitely improved so I hope this is no longer a factor and I’ve always been hugely appreciative of the badass women I was lucky enough to work with in my early years in manufacturing.

Manufacturers are only just one aspect; system integrators and electrical contractors all play a big part in the diverse ecosystem of the lighting industry and they are all still pretty male dominated.

If you look at the boards of directors across the lighting industry associations, you’ll still see a definite lack of XX chromosomes. This is visibly changing thanks to recent women who have been appointed the top spots in leading lighting organisations I really hope that encourages more women to seek roles in the manufacturing, electrical and controls industry.

How do you think more women can be encouraged into this side of the lighting industry? What can manufactures do to encourage a diversity of applicants for roles in sales and product development for example?

I’m fortunate enough to work for a company where our senior product engineer, finance director, US Specification Manager and a large number of the operations team are women. This is probably a reflection of an enviably gender balanced work and life culture found mainly in the Nordics!

Possibly more mentorship and targeted attention towards apprenticeships by manufacturers could help break down potential barriers as the uptake of STEM studies undertaken by women increases.

I think the shifting attitudes regarding gender in manufacturing will eventually catch up with the designer side of the industry which is fabulously diverse!

What are the positives of working for a manufacturer? What are the negatives?

Oh there are plenty, dynamic lighting is an excellent industry as it makes you use both sides of your brain. I love the aesthetic challenges and collaborations with designers while also coming up with integration/materials solutions and then putting together a system to make the whole thing work. I’m lucky to work with a great team at HQ who aren’t afraid of a challenge either.
Positives: the diversity of your everyday to-do list
Negatives: being asked to “ballpark” estimate the cost of something that has never been done before, in just a few hours, despite huge global material and supply challenges!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I’m really glad to see more lighting designers joining the specification and sales teams of manufacturers. I think their attention to detail and ability to listen and collaborate is a huge advantage and gives an entirely different approach from traditional “sales sales sales!!”

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