One of the UK’s most high profile businesswomen, Baroness Karren Brady, has told apprentices and young engineers at the Manufacturing Technology Centre that they should value themselves, be ambitious and not tolerate prejudice against them.
Speaking to an audience of more than 200 MTC employees, The Apprentice judge said that women who have chosen engineering as a career should be intolerant of any unequal treatment they may receive, and speak up against unacceptable sexism.
She was speaking as the MTC revealed that, of its 2018 apprentice intake, more than 20% were female, which compares with just 9% of the engineering workforce in the UK as a whole. Only 6% of registered engineers and technicians in the UK are female, compared with 30% in India.
The ‘Audience with Baroness Karren Brady’ event at the Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre was organised by the MTC’s Tilly Shilling Initiative – a programme to promote diversity and inclusivity in engineering.
Baroness Brady, who is also chief executive of West Ham United, told the audience that success in business required leadership, ambition, determination, resilience and a positive attitude.
She said: “Don’t lower your standards, and speak up for what is unacceptable. Most importantly, value yourself and don’t let others undervalue you. As someone who was usually the only woman in a room of more than 90 men, you have to have confidence and self esteem.”
Baroness Brady began her business career straight from school, and by the age of 23 was managing director of Birmingham City FC, taking the club from administration to its 2009 sale for £82 million. She moved to West Ham where she has taken the club into the top five fastest-growing brands in world football.
The Tilly Shilling Initiative organises several events for young engineers, as well as promoting engineering as a career through teacher education, school and university careers events and STEM activities.
MTC HR director Vicki Sanderson said: “Encouraging women into engineering doesn’t just benefit them. It benefits engineering as a whole and the UK economy. Given the knowledge and faith in their abilities, female engineers are achieving wonderful things.”
The initiative was named after Beatrice (Tilly) Shilling OBE, who was a British aeronautical engineer and motor racer. During the Second World War, she invented an aircraft engine device that restricted fuel flow to the carburettor. This helped prevent engine stall in the Rolls-Royce Merlin engines of the Hurricane and Spitfire fighters, which could lose power or even completely cut out during certain dogfight manoeuvres.
She raced motorbikes at Goodwood in the 1930s, and, after the war, raced cars. She died in 1990, aged 81.