BREAK­ING MOULD

The role model who wants to see more women move into en­gi­neer­ing

Yorkshire Post - Business - - FRONT PAGE -

Bri­die Warner-Ad­setts is a role model for en­cour­ag­ing more fe­male en­gi­neers – and don’t ever tell her she can’t do some­thing. Lizzie Mur­phy re­ports. I’m one of eight chil­dren... My choice of ca­reer wasn’t dis­cour­aged at home but it was met with in­credulity and hu­mour at school – this funny lit­tle girl who wanted to be an en­gi­neer. Bri­die Warner- Ad­setts, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at Naylor In­dus­tries

DON’T UN­DER­ES­TI­MATE Bri­die Warner- Ad­setts.

That’s the over- rid­ing mes­sage I take away from my 45- minute in­ter­view with the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Naylor In­dus­tries, a man­u­fac­turer of con­struc­tion prod­ucts.

It’s the mis­take her school ca­reers ad­viser made when she told them she wanted to work with ma­chin­ery and they sent her away with a typ­ing course form, and it’s a theme that ap­pears to have fol­lowed her ca­reer.

“I’m one of eight chil­dren and we’re all very prac­ti­cal,” she says. “My choice of ca­reer wasn’t dis­cour­aged at home but it was met with in­credulity and hu­mour at school – this funny lit­tle girl who wanted to be an en­gi­neer.”

She says she has be­come used to be­ing un­der- es­ti­mated but she en­joys prov­ing peo­ple wrong. “My at­ti­tude has al­ways been ‘ you can think that about me but I will show you you are wrong,” she says.

As a re­sult, Warner- Ad­setts re­turns to a fa­mil­iar theme among fe­male busi­ness lead­ers. “There are plenty of peo­ple along the way who say you can’t do some­thing be­cause you are a woman. You feel you have to work harder to prove your­self. It’s un­fair but the re­al­ity of it is that we are still in a storm­ing pe­riod of change. If I don’t say I will work harder and prove my­self then it is never go­ing to change for the next gen­er­a­tion.”

Warner- Ad­setts de­scribes her­self as “pretty un­con­ven­tional in at­ti­tude” and “ir­rev­er­ent”. Al­though we’re speak­ing on the phone and I can’t see her face, I can tell she has a steely glint in her eye when she says: “just watch me”.

She is a role model for smash­ing through gen­der stereo­types. “This isn’t about men ver­sus women,” she says. “A bal­ance creates an en­vi­ron­ment where teams and busi­nesses can make bet­ter de­ci­sions.”

The short­age of can­di­dates for en­gi­neer­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing roles con­tin­ues to be a ma­jor prob­lem and Warner- Ad­setts be­lieves there are two main bar­ri­ers: One is a legacy is­sue.

She be­lieves the par­ents of to­day’s school chil­dren are out of touch with mod­ern in­dus­try. The other bar­rier is the lack of sup­port from education.

Warner- Ad­setts wants to see a sys­tem in­tro­duced to mon­i­tor what hap­pens to young peo­ple in their early ca­reers when they leave education.

“At the mo­ment it’s all about grades and that is im­por­tant but if we knew what young peo­ple do with their education when they leave, the govern­ment could see ex­actly where the de­mand is,” she says.

It has fallen on She adds: “in­dus­try to pre­pare young peo­ple for the world of work but education needs to take some re­spon­si­bil­ity. There should be some con­nect be­tween what in­dus­try needs and what education is turn­ing out.”

De­spite a shaky start with her ca­reers ad­viser, Warner- Ad­setts went on to study en­gi­neer­ing at Sh­effield Univer­sity. But she was thwarted at the first hur­dle when she grad­u­ated. “It was the 80s and I couldn’t get a job in en­gi­neer­ing for love nor money,” she says.

She then ap­plied and was re­jected for an ad­min­is­tra­tion role at Sh­effield In­su­la­tions, now SIG. But in an un­ex­pected twist, the com­pany sent her an­other let­ter by mis­take invit­ing her for a se­cond job in­ter­view, for a role she had never ap­plied for, in the fi­nance team.

“I didn’t know any­thing about fi­nance apart from I didn’t have any money,” she says. “But I went to the in­ter­view and blagged my way in.”

Warner- Ad­setts was at the com­pany for al­most a decade, work­ing her way up to as­sis­tant man­ager in ac­count­ing ser­vices and was part of the team who floated the busi­ness.

She went on to work for a steel man­u­fac­turer fol­lowed by Jew­son be­fore tak­ing a year out to travel the world, which in­cluded a stint run­ning a char­ter boat around the Whit­sun­day is­lands in Aus­tralia.

On her re­turn, she be­came op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor at fur­ni­ture com­po­nents man­u­fac­turer BLP, tak­ing the com­pany through a man­age­ment buy- out in 2009 and its sub­se­quent sale to BA Com­po­nents.

Fol­low­ing a pe­riod as a con­sul­tant, six years ago Warner-Ad­setts was head­hunted to be­come chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Naylor In­dus­tries. “You have mo­ments in your life when you feel at home and that is how I felt when I joined Naylor,” she says.

Barns­ley- based Naylor has a £ 50m turnover and em­ploys 380 peo­ple at seven sites in Barns­ley, Rother­ham, Fife and the West Mid­lands.

The num­ber of fe­male man­agers has in­creased from five to 18 in five years and its board is 50 per cent fe­male.

Ex­ports have tripled in the last three years and cur­rently ac­count for 10 per cent of the busi­ness, send­ing its prod­ucts to 65 coun­tries.

The com­pany is mov­ing some of its op­er­a­tions to ac­com­mo­date growth. It is re­lo­cat­ing its con­crete and plas­tics busi­nesses as well as its head of­fice af­ter ac­quir­ing a nine- acre site in Womb­well, Barns­ley.

It is also in­vest­ing in new equip­ment for its plas­tics divi­sion fol­low­ing a grant from the Sh­effield City Re­gion LEP.

It’s to­wards the end of our con­ver­sa­tion when I drop in the ques­tion of what she does in her spare time.

More of­ten than not in th­ese in­ter­views, the an­swer is bland and we move on quickly. “I run a small farm,” says Warner-Ad­setts.

Given our con­ver­sa­tion so far, this doesn’t sur­prise me.

The farm in ques­tion is an arable farm, grow­ing ce­real, on the bor­der of Sh­effield and North Not­ting­hamshire. Warner-Ad­setts lives there with and her hus­band and grown up step daugh­ter’s fam­ily.

They are soon to be joined by her other step daugh­ter’s fam­ily, which will make six grand­chil­dren in to­tal.

“I’m new to this, I’ve only done it for three years but it’s some­thing I’ve al­ways wanted to do and it’s so peace­ful in the coun­try­side,” she says.

Like I said, this woman should not be un­der­es­ti­mated.

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