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Girl power drives GE Aviation's Dowty site

PUBLISHED: 16:06 04 April 2013 | UPDATED: 21:24 05 April 2013

Girl power drives GE Aviation's Dowty site

Girl power drives GE Aviation's Dowty site

We meet Victoria Adams, GE Aviation's only female executive site leader in the UK and a vocal advocate for more women in senior management roles. Interview by Nicky Godding

Girl power drives GE Aviations Dowty site

We meet Victoria Adams, GE Aviations only female executive site leader in the UK and a vocal advocate for more women in senior management roles. Interview by Nicky Godding

Google Victoria Adams and you wont immediately find the Executive Site Leader at GE Aviation. Instead you will fall upon the slightly better known, now married Victoria Beckham, formerly Adams. Both are perfect examples of girl power.

Our Victoria Adams is the Executive Site Leader of GE Aviations Dowty Propellers in Gloucester which employs 300 people in the design, manufacture and service of composite propeller systems. Victoria is responsible for leading the team to meet all operational, cost, quality, delivery, environmental, health and safety commitments quite a list. She has been in this role since January 2012 having started her career 15 years ago with GE Aviation at its aircraft engine overhaul facility in South Wales.

Now, as one of the site leaders of a multi-national industrial company and GE Aviations only female site leader in the UK, she is often a woman in a mans world but is passionate in her support of women in the workplace, co-leading GEs Womens Network in the UK and Ireland and actively mentoring both women and men across the company in the UK and overseas.

Victoria is a high achiever, only the second member of her family to go to university (her uncle was the first and he went on to become a schoolteacher). Born in Llanelli, west Wales, she studied languages at the University of Aberystwyth and speaks Welsh, English, French and Spanish although she doesnt have much opportunity to use them at this stage of her career.

When I was at university I considered a career in teaching, then I had a years teaching experience during my study year abroad and decided that its wasnt really for me.

After graduation her first job was working in an international assistance call centre where she was able to use her languages. She soon moved to GE Aviation Wales, moving steadily up the career ladder until she was offered a move to GE Aviation in Gloucestershire. She says she wishes shed seized the opportunity to spread her wings years before. Sometimes as women our biggest barrier to success is our own lack of self-belief which might make us hesitate in taking on a tough new challenge or pushing for career progression.

GE is committed to employing a diverse workforce and it reaches beyond gender. Diversity is about the power of the mix combining different ideas and experiences to deliver the best results. GEs commitment to the Womens Network, which focuses on retaining and developing female talent across the company, has helped women advance their careers. We have high quality events giving both men and women the opportunity to grow, develop and network across the company, says Victoria. Its value was recognised recently when GE was selected as a Times Top 50 Employer for Women, as well as being runners up in the European Diversity Awards in the Outstanding Network Group of the Year category.

Being a site leader isnt so much about knowing the product inside out, there are a lot of highly talented design and manufacturing engineers to do that, it is about the efficient operation of the site and the health and safety of the workforce so that they are as productive as they can be. Without being sexist, it does seem like a very good role for the nurturing, supportive and non aggressive personality characteristics so often found in women, and chatting to Victoria I am surprised not more are employed in such roles across the UK.

As well as making investments in advanced manufacturing technology to ensure they remain competitive in the global environment, GE Aviation invests heavily in its people, something that Victoria sponsors in her role.

Its vital that we develop a highly skilled workforce for the future.

GE Aviation at both of our Gloucestershire sites at Bishops Cleeve and here at Dowty Propellers have an excellent commitment to employing apprentices. Were also a major supporter of the Cheltenham Science Festival and have a number of active school support programmes, including GirlsGetSet a scheme that encourages girls in years 7, 8 and 9 (11-14 years) to consider engineering as a career. In providing role models, and actively working with local schools, Dowty Propellers was named 2012 STEM Company of the Year for Gloucestershire.

Leading in a fast paced manufacturing environment can be tough, and Victorias days are long. A day begins at 8am on a daily site walk with the production teams so shes up to date with issues or situations arising. The aviation industry is exciting with innovative technology, a varied customer base and employing extremely talented people.

My priorities are the people I lead, workforce Health and Safety comes first and a collaborative, inclusive workplace where everyones ideas count and the teams are supported. This results in productivity and customer satisfaction.

GEs commitment to diversity means that we can support employees with flexible work arrangements. Its not just women that want better work-life balance. Support is also there for those women that choose career breaks and then bring their life experiences back to the workplace. We shouldnt undervalue the role we play as wives and mothers with careers.

Victoria is married and has a 22-year-old stepson. Her husband Adrian also works at GE Aviation and they balance their dual careers.

The couple moved from Cardiff to Tewkesbury three years ago. They love the Gloucestershire countryside and Victoria is working hard on her triathlon-training plan having caught the bug after competing in a Cheltenham triathlon in 2011.

She also loves her rugby. I support Wales, of course, which creates some banter in the office when the Six Nations starts, but my team is Llanelli Scarlets. She does admit to supporting Gloucester but tells me not to tell her Welsh friends. (Its OK, Victoria; I dont think Cotswold Life is sold in Wales). [Editor: Oh yes it is!]

If she hadnt forged a career at GE Aviation, what would she be doing? I couldnt have been a teacher, thats for sure. Im just glad I work at GE. Its an ever-changing business with opportunities for personal and professional development so Ive never wanted to work anywhere else. As long as I continue to learn and make a difference to people who work around me then Im in the right job. When I give career advice I always say the following: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, have confidence to grow and develop. I did that three years ago when I left Wales and moved to Gloucestershire and I have no regrets.

Quotas are not helping women into senior management roles

Countries that have introduced quotas for the number of women in the boardroom are not seeing more women coming through the executive management ranks, according to research for the High Pay Centre. The research, conducted by Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann found that where quotas had been brought in there was an immediate rise in female non-executives on boards, but this has not been matched by the number of women entering executive or senior positions.

The issue goes right to the top of UK plc. In 2010 women made up only 12.5% of the members of the corporate boards of FTSE 100 companies. This was up from 9.4% in 2004, according to Lord Davies report on Women in the Boardroom, published in February 2011.

He said, Given the long record of women achieving the highest qualifications and leadership positions in many walks of life, the poor representation of women on boards, relative to their male counterparts, has raised questions about whether board recruitment is in practice based on skills, experience and performance.

However, according to Boardwatch, set up following Lord Davies report and which tracks the appointments of women to UK boards, there are now only seven FTSE 100 companies will all-male boards and 38 per cent of board appointments since 1 March 2012 have been women. The gender balance is improving.

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