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Stories by Hydro

Meet Lauren and Lucy – Two rising stars at Hydro Wrexham

As traditional industries struggle to achieve adequate gender balance, Lucy Thomas and Lauren Millington are making strides at Hydro’s recycler in Wrexham. Here is why they had doubts about working in the aluminium industry, why they chose Hydro, why they love it here – and their thoughts on what can be done to improve the gender balance in the company.

March 8 is International Women’s Day, marking a call to action for accelerating gender equality around the world.

Hydro is a company of 32,000 employees, but only 22 percent women. As part of the company strategy, Hydro has set the ambition to increase the number of female employees to 25 percent by 2025. Achieving this target demands commitment from leaders and employees at all levels.

In Wrexham, the company has 55 employees where only 11 percent are female.

a man wearing a helmet and a jacket
Lucy Thomas

Lucy applies for a job as scrap buyer

Lucy Thomas, 26, is from Wrexham and has been with Hydro for five and a half years. She joined as a graduate straight from the University of Manchester, where she studied International Business and Economics.

“I found out about the job during the last year of my studies. I had not heard about the company before and knew nothing about the aluminium industry or scrap, so I was a bit sceptical. When I told my family I was going for an interview for a scrap buyer they laughed,” says Lucy with a smile.

“The interview process was good. I remember Sue Bairstow (former Managing Director at Hydro in Wrexham, now retired) asked what I thought kept her awake at night, and I then answered something like worrying about customers or suppliers. Sue said it was ‘safety of my employees.’ That has stayed with me,” she says.

a man in a red jacket standing in front of a truck
Lauren Millington

Lauren joins straight from college and doing an apprenticeship to become an engineer

Lauren Millington, 19, is from Flintshire in North Wales and has been with Hydro for eight months. She joined straight from college, having studied engineering, and is now on a two  year apprenticeship contract training to become a maintenance engineer.

“Even though I had not heard of the company before, I liked what I saw in the job application because the role looked interesting and varied. I did my research on the company website. I liked the fact that it was a global company and the role included training on multiple skills rather than just one skill,” says Lauren.

Male dominant industry – but a fantastic place to work

“I expected the industry to be mostly male as there were only four women including myself in my engineer training class at college. Initially, I was worried about working with a lot of men,” Lauren says on her worries of working with “only” men.

“I like the people in the plant and the company really looks after us. The fact that we recently celebrated 2,000 days of operating without an accident is a testament to everyone’s commitment and dedication to safety,” Lauren continues.

Good role models are important

Having women in key management positions has been a motivating factor for Lucy.

“Even though the perception is that it is a male dominant industry, it’s great to see women in key senior positions in the company. Our CEO, Hilde Merete Aasheim, and our Head of Recycling, Ingrid Guddal, are both women. It’s nice to know what is possible to achieve in Hydro as a woman and climbing the ladder is possible. It’s also inspiring that these women have shown that it’s possible to have a family and a career in Hydro. I can see a longevity to my career with Hydro,” Lucy says.

“The women in Hydro, like Lucy, are an inspiration, and for me having work experience here is great. I now feel ambitious to continue my career here and to move up the ranks,” Lauren says.

High praise to the work environment

The work environment at Wrexham and the Hydro culture are something that Lucy and Lauren speak highly of.

“I don’t feel intimidated even though I’m in a male industry. My confidence has increased, and I have built lots of strong relationships in and outside the company.  I know who I can turn to for help and I always feel very supported, especially with my career ambitions,” Lucy says.

“The people here are lovely and my confidence has grown in the time I’ve been here,” Lauren says. 

Why are there few women in the industry in general?

“I think it’s a cultural thing in the UK rather than just to do with Hydro. The perception of this industry is that it is male dominated and dirty/dusty, and not appealing to women or men. Some women might not like the idea of working in a male dominated industry, so if the industry has few women, it’s hard to attract women. Eventually, as we get more women working in industry, then it becomes less of a barrier,” Lucy says when asked why there are few women in the industry.

What can be done to improve the gender balance in the company?

“We need to start by targeting schools and colleges to improve the gender balance, and also change the perception of the industry,” Lauren says.

“Women like Lauren and myself need to be more visible, which is partly why we agreed to do this interview. Also, provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has to improve as most of it is designed for men. We need to make sure that changing facilities are adequate and companies need to make sure that family friendly policies are extend to all workers. This means whether it’s in the plant, in the office, male or female,” Lucy says.

A structured approach to improve gender balance in Wrexham

“Both Lucy and Lauren have done tremendously well for us since they began here, and we are very proud to have them with us. We have a strong family feeling here at Hydro, where our aim is to take care of and develop our employees, and be a workplace where everyone can come as they are. We target an inclusive work environment where both men and woman can succeed and thrive,” says Wayne Clifton, Managing Director at Wrexham.

He also agrees that more needs to be done to improve the gender balance, and that change is on the way, much thanks to Lucy and Lauren’s suggestions, and the collaboration with HR & CSR Manager, Tracy Jones.

“We have started to target schools and colleges in our people strategy, and are talking more to schools to show what this industry is about and what we do, as well as improving our facilities to improve changing rooms and add more facilities for women,” Wayne says.

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