Your Interview Justine Walmsley


Justine Walmsley

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

10 years.

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

I have only ever worked for manufacturers, ranging from small-scale, to UK market leaders, and now the world’s largest lighting company, Signify.

The first lighting company taught me a lot about the industry, after starting out on the order desk doing manual order entries, taking phone queries & recommending products, before moving into aftersales, disputes, debits and returns where I learned more technical data. I then worked in internal sales and experienced some of my first trade shows. Backed by all this experience I was fortunate to find a role in marketing, which is where I’ve stayed and enjoy being able to apply this knowledge.

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

Lighting as an industry is predominantly perceived to be male dominated. However, I haven’t witnessed what I would consider gender inequality within the office. Office-based staff have always been a healthy split, although customer service, finance, HR & marketing have been predominantly female. However, I would agree that field-based sales colleagues have generally been male. My first lighting company had several women in leadership and a female MD, while my second lighting company, only the CFO was female. Over the years, I’ve seen more women come into sales & leadership roles and at my current employer, we now have a good mix of male/female field-based sales colleagues, which has continued to improve in the four years I’ve been here.

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

Honestly, I haven’t found this to be the case. However, out in the field, especially at certain industry events where we’re talking construction, FM, wholesaler, installer & trade shows, the audience is predominantly male. The more design, consultant, specification and interior-based events seem to have a more diverse audience.

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 personally feel that will is more important than skill. Employ someone who has transferrable skills, or high potential & train them, rather than rely solely on direct experience or education. Be inclusive, offer apprenticeship schemes, exhibit at career fairs in schools & colleges, encourage take your child to work days, or offer open days to local schools/colleges. It’s also important to support & celebrate women already in the industry. An example of this could be female electrical installers who are social media influencers. Partner with them, optimise their presence & amplify their voice to help normalise females in this industry, potentially inspiring more women to consider this a career option.

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

Due to light being needed in so many applications, I’ve enjoyed exposure to so many different industries. It’s been eye-opening attending & exhibiting at events in sustainability, street lighting, education, facilities management, data centres, retail, design shows & even NHS conferences. It also feels great to be a part of an industry that can make a real difference to make the world and application of light more sustainable. For instance, our participation at the 2022 [d]arc awards was lots of fun, building a ‘wave’ of plastic rubbish to signify ocean waste and raise awareness of our Coastal breeze luminaire 3D printed luminaire manufactured from discarded fishing nets.

And thanks to Signifys’ Philips Hue brand, I’ve enjoyed being on stand duty at gaming events, as well as being lucky enough to attend an influencer party, meeting Ortis from The Gadget Show, on the roof garden of John Lewis Oxford Street. Never a dull day!

Working for a manufacturer I feel a sense of pride seeing installations when out & about, knowing that the company I work for provided those products. Take the London Eye, Somerset House, the Thames bridges, etc. I liken it to a quote from the Lion King: “Everything the light touches, Simba”!

That said, there have been moments in the past, especially at trade events, where I’ve experienced a “Where’s the bloke, love?” mentality, where someone won’t listen to technical advice I have to offer due to being female. Admittedly this was several years ago, where the role of women was often to hand out leaflets instead of talking about products or technology. Those days seem to be behind us, thankfully!

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