This International Women’s Day, Algar Air director Simone Kidd asks how can we expect everyone to value the work women do unless women value it too?
Algar Air International Women's Day 2024

 

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘inspire inclusion’. It’s about giving women a sense of belonging, relevance and empowerment. It’s about understanding and valuing the work women do.

The funny thing is, as I’ve been thinking about that this week, I’ve realised how women so often find themselves underselling what they do. Take that word ‘admin’.

There are three women in the Algar Air office and we’ve tended to use ‘admin’ as a shorthand way of describing what we do to distinguish us from the engineering side of the business. But we do a lot more than admin. In fact, I’ve realised that we do virtually everything other than scoping and diarising jobs and the engineering.

Don’t get me wrong, without our engineers, we don’t have a business — they’re critical to our success. Just as critical is all the purchasing, quality control, health and safety, accounting, credit control, marketing, payroll, IT, telephones and HR. We do all of that. We sort the insurances and deal with the compliance and legislation. We look after all the services coming in and out of the building.

The women in this business do so much. I’m not saying we do more, or that what we do matters more. But I am saying what we do is worth valuing equally.

Algar Air International Women's Day 2024

 

Without us there are no parts to fit and no jobs to attend. Nothing would get booked in and scheduled. Nothing would get invoiced. Our customers wouldn’t have their written schemes of examination or their test certificates. Their next compressed air system service wouldn’t happen like clockwork every year. And when they had a question, there’d be no one to call.

I’m going to set up a swear jar so that the next time one of us dismisses all of that as ‘admin’ it costs us. After all, how can we expect everyone to value the work women do unless we value it too?

 

The next generation of women

I was asked recently if it matters that we bring more women into the industry. I felt I needed to turn the question around. I don’t know whether it really matters, but I do know that no woman should feel that a certain career route is blocked because of her gender.

It’s about your skills, about your passion, about what you can bring to a role and a business. None of that should have anything to do with your gender, colour, or orientation.

Not long ago we welcomed Ellie into the business on work experience as an engineer. She’s one of the best work experience students we’ve ever had. She wanted to try everything, was out with our engineers every day and was completely unphased by being the only women in a team of men.

Algar Air International Women's Day 2024

 

I asked her to say a little bit about her experience, and this is what she said:

“I did my work experience at Algar Air because I’ve had an interest in engineering for a long time and I’m doing it as it GCSE. I went out with the team and learned about all the machines they worked on and how to service them.

“The part I enjoyed the most was working as a part of the team and coming up with different ways to resolve problems.

“I’m hoping to become a mechanical engineer when I’m older and hope to study mechanical engineering or physics at degree level.”

 

You need to see it to believe you can be it

I know she’ll make a brilliant engineer, but Ellie’s talent and passion need nurturing and supporting. She’ll face the same stereotyping and prejudice we’ve all faced. She’ll still be expected to perform at a higher level to get the same level of appreciation or acceptance.

She’ll need a bit of empathy every now and again from people with lived experience of the issues every woman faces — I know that’s something I’ve been really grateful for. That all needs to change and it is changing — gradually — but in the meantime it’s important that she has a support network around her, and that she can see other examples of women in industry who’ve been there and done that. You need to see it to believe you can be it, as they say.

As Ellie said, “It is important [to see other women in leadership roles in industry] because I can see the that women can be successful and there aren’t any barriers to block their path and they can inspire me to do the same.”

Algar Air International Women's Day 2024

 

Valuing every role

This International Women’s Day is all about valuing women. It’s important that we recognise that means every woman in every role. Every CEO and financial director. Every cleaner and store assistant. And yes, every engineer and administrator.

We all matter. But I’m keeping that swear jar to stop us describing what we do as ‘just’ admin.

I’ll give the final word to Ellie. I asked her what she’d say to others in her position, thinking about a career in engineering or other traditionally male-dominated sectors. This is what she said:

“Don’t be afraid to stand out and do something different. At the end of the day it’s your future. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Just do what makes you happy.”

Happy International Women’s Day.

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