In the lead up to International Women’s Day, Coca-Cola Enterprises has profiled several female members of its workforce to ask them what it means to be a woman in manufacturing today.

The series comes at a time when the sector is suffering from skills shortages across Europe, and one serious gap is the low number of women. Maryanne Proctor, from the bottler’s Edmonton factory, discusses her role and reflects some of the challenges she’s faced, as the company aspires to have a minimum of 40% of women in both management and leadership grades by 2025.

Tell us about your job and what your work looks like every day.

I am the Environment Manager at CCE’s Edmonton factory near London, Great Britain, which produces 50 million cases of soft drinks every year. My job is to make sure that every aspect of the site’s operations is environmentally sustainable. I look after environmental legal compliance and am also responsible for improving our performance in the areas of energy, water and waste.

I knew from an early age that I wanted my career to be based around working with people, and ideally include biology and ecology. 

Now, my day-to-day responsibilities include every aspect of the sustainability of our operations – whether that’s driving down energy consumption, minimising our impact on the environment, ensuring we remain a zero-waste site or reducing the amount of water we use.

My work is interesting and varied – from interacting with external bodies such as the Environment Agency to working with people on site to identify and deliver environmental improvements.

How did you arrive at your current position? What attracted you to a career in manufacturing?

As a child, I loved to understand how things work and see things being made– one of my first memories is seeing things being made on production lines on Play School, a 70’s British children's television series!

I joined CCE in 1999, here in Edmonton, and since then I have held a variety of roles: Learning & Development Manager, Quality Manager and Production Manager. In 2009, after my maternity leaves, I came back and became the factory’s Environmental Manager.

Work-life balance is even more important now that I am a mum to two lovely daughters, so I now work part-time, with the support of my team and thanks to CCE’s flexible working policy.

What have been your biggest challenges in this role?

My biggest challenge is time.

In my life, I have so many roles: wife, mother, sister, daughter, Environment Manager, colleague, friend, sounding board, housewife, cake maker, party planner, sustainability champion, fundraiser… and I would like to be the best at all of them, which is not always possible!

I have recognised that I can’t do everything perfectly. I need to say ‘no’ and ask for support, as well as accept that just because I could do something doesn’t mean I have to!

What does it mean being a woman in manufacturing to you?

I don’t necessarily think of myself as “a woman in manufacturing”, but then I don’t think of myself as “a girl from a council estate” or “the wife of an accountant” – I just see myself as an individual who is doing a job that I enjoy and excel at!

It does frustrate me when others try to restrain or stop people from reaching their full potential because of their ethnicity, gender, age, religion or so-called “differences” – all workplaces should have a diverse group of people taking different roles and maximizing different skills. I think diversity and inclusion is essential for the success of any sustainable business and the steps that CCE have been taking to improve diversity in the workplace will deliver better results through inclusive teams.

Have you encountered stereotypes? And, if so, how did you overcome them?

Often, when people make assumptions about others based on stereotypes they end up underestimating them. When people make incorrect assumptions about me, I try to drop in subtle facts about my experience, without trying to embarrass the person but so they know there might be more to me than meets the eye!

I think diversity and inclusion is essential for the success of any sustainable business and the steps that CCE have been taking to improve diversity in the workplace will deliver better results through inclusive teams.

Would you recommend a career in manufacturing? And, if so, why?

Absolutely. You work with fantastic people, make and improve things – and have a good laugh too!

Being in a manufacturing environment is something I love – seeing things being made every day is great. It’s this passion that I want to share with other women who are thinking about going into the industry. Being able to mentor others and nurture young talent has made me realise – especially as a mother – that I don’t want to see my daughters’ generation inhibited from going into any industry that they desire.

This interview first appeared as part of the 'Women in Manufacutring' series on Coca-Cola Enterprises. Read more here: http://www.cokecce.com/pages/women-in-manufacturing-series