When I first applied for an apprenticeship with GSK in 2012, the thought that I was considering a career in a male-dominated field didn’t even cross my mind. I was applying for a role at a global company that I had grown up living near, to (hopefully) work in an area I had always had an interest - science.
Fast-forward two years, a visit to 10 Downing Street and receiving the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Apprentice of the Year award 2014 later, it is safe to say my time at GSK has been eventful. But my proudest achievement in the last two years is something that I didn’t even think about when I joined GSK – getting more females to consider a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).
I decided it was time to get involved with GSK’s school/student activities at my assessment day where I was the only female shortlisted out of four candidates. I think was the moment I realised there was a gender issue in this field and decided to do something about it. I like to see myself as a mentor to students and I regularly visit the local schools to talk to students about my experiences in my role and particularly as a female in this industry.
What has struck me most is that female students don’t feel confident enough to go for some of the career opportunities that GSK offers in STEM. A career in manufacturing or engineering doesn’t mean you only work on dirty machinery all day. As I’ve explained to so many students, there are aspects of maintaining working machinery, however there’s so much more to a role like this.
All of my work in promoting STEM careers resulted in an unexpected visit to Number 10 Downing Street earlier this year, where I met senior ministers and talked about all of the activities I have been involved in (unfortunately for me, the Prime Minister was called into an urgent meeting so I didn’t get to meet him on the day!). I got to present an experiment we take into schools to the Skills Minister Matthew Hancock.
The school visits and activities that I have been involved with have resulted in a 25% rise in female applications for apprenticeships at my site, which I am incredibly proud of. I think diversity in GSK’s workforce is really important and it was an honour that my efforts were recognised by WISE too.
I should point out that my work in promoting STEM careers is voluntary and done in my spare time, in addition to my day job as a Laboratory Analyst at one of our manufacturing sites. I test the purity of key ingredients that go into many of our antibiotics. At the same time, I am studying at university, meaning I get the best of both worlds; practical hands-on experience at GSK and the technical knowledge at university. I’m really enjoying my apprenticeship and would say going down this route was the best decision I have made to date.