Site Manager, Infineum
Strategic Planning Manager, Infineum
Women are increasingly being encouraged to take up roles within STEM as progressive companies embrace and implement approaches that lead to a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
Greater gender balance offers diverse approaches to problems, while policies that support women in the workplace are pivotal in retaining talent. Employees of specialty chemicals firm Infineum, Michaela Sommerova and Georgina Hallworth, share how this ensures career development in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in an environment where there is equity in the opportunities that arise.
Opportunities for development in a welcoming environment
Michaela, who works in the component delivery department on projects to improve fuel economy, wanted to tackle challenging issues, particularly environmental ones and see them through to fruition.
Having joined two years ago with a background in synthetic organic chemistry, it also offered her the chance to play a part in the journey towards the decarbonisation of transport. “While I don’t believe there is one universal solution, I can contribute my skill set in developing novel components that support sustainability,” says Michaela, 27.
Another attraction is to experience different arms of the organisation and develop new skills as her interests change. “One of the best things about the company is the people I work with; they are knowledgeable, nice to work with; and I have learned a lot from them, which is something I value,” she adds.
Balancing responsibilities and believing in yourself
Michaela points to other benefits, such as family-friendly policies: “It is important to work for a company that respects that I have a life outside of work and gives me the support I might need in the future.”
That sentiment was echoed by Georgina, Strategic Planning Manager, who joined the company 15 years ago following her chemistry PhD. While acknowledging the barriers for women in STEM, she says: “The more you see people like yourself in the industry, the more you can believe that it is possible.”
The more you see people like yourself in the industry, the more you can believe that it is possible.Georgina Hallworth
Discussing important issues for women at work
Mother of two Georgina is active in the Women’s Affinity Group, which highlights issues specific to women. They address topics such as ‘imposter syndrome’ — where people doubt their talents — or make suggestions to enhance the experience of women returning to work after having children, for instance.
Georgina underlines the importance of making people feel they belong, with the company already embracing ‘belonging’ over and above its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) philosophy.
Inspiring women into the industry and diversifying thought
As Site Manager at the company headquarters and R&D base in Milton Hill, south Oxfordshire, Bobby Patel is part of the company’s community of STEM ambassadors who encourage young people and women to a career in the sector.
Having worked in STEM for 23 years, he is passionate about visiting schools and colleges to give talks and organise student work placements. One of his proudest moments came when a parent said that their daughter had opted for a career in chemical engineering as a result. “I will do whatever I can to create opportunities for women to be inspired to enter the industry,” says Bobby.
He feels it is important for women to have a voice in the sector and explains that there are equal opportunities for women at every level within Infineum — with 50/50 splits for interview selection and a female presence on interview panels.
Working with several women on his team, he adds: “Women can bring different ways of thinking to a traditionally male-dominated industry. This diversity of thought not only benefits the business but also supports aspects such as safety, which is incredibly important for a sustainable specialty chemicals company like Infineum.”