Your Interview Jess Gallacher


Jess Gallacher

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

22 years.

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

I had a very niche and wonderful role working for the Institution of Lighting Professionals for many years. This year I moved to ASD Lighting, a manufacturer of all types of lighting based in Rotherham, UK.

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

Sadly not – delighted to be doing my bit to change that though!

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

I wonder if work/life balance is a factor. Being a working parent is very challenging and statistically we know this impacts more on women than men even in today’s society. Historically I have heard anecdotes from women who have encountered sexism and the glass ceiling in some manufacturing companies (not mine, I am glad to say).

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?

Manufacturers that are genuinely and visibly supportive will attract more diverse applicants. In my company, there is a 40/60 balance on the board : two women and three men which I think is important and probably unusual. Before I joined, I knew the men and women in my future team and that they are great role models for someone like me needing to learn a lot of new skills as I transition into manufacturing. I already knew it was a fair and safe place to work, plus I was able to be very open and ask for working arrangements that suited my family.

It’s the same in manufacturing as in the rest of society – we all need to keep working for equality. Some of this is easy to say but really difficult to do: be a role model (when you have the emotional bandwidth). Be anti-racist. Be aware of whatever privilege you have. Call out unacceptable behaviour. Check in on your network. If you have children, take equal responsibility for them.

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

My role is such a great mixture of being creative, being technical and getting out and about meeting people. I enjoy the training opportunities, the trust and freedom to make things happen, doing something that fits with my personal values, and being in a fun and energetic team.

Where I am, the attitude is very gender balanced, the culture is that everyone’s ideas and input is welcomed. I can’t get over how I can have a meeting with a product designer then go to the shop floor and see it made in front of my eyes – just so cool.

I am quite a hippy socialist and whilst I love the buzz of a finished scheme, what motivates me is more being part of something sustainable. Walking around in the factory knowing that as well as having happy customers we are also doing something that means we can raise our families and pay our bills, is really satisfying.

I have nothing negative to say about my experience as a woman working for a manufacturer, but I know not all companies are the same and I’m very fortunate.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

It’s a difficult topic but over the years of course, like many women, I have met some dreadful men – solidarity to anyone with negative experiences and I promise it is not the same everywhere. Anyone who is thinking of a career in manufacturing, feel free to contact me in confidence if you have questions or need a shoulder - I am always happy to support others if I can.

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